Snoop dogs

You may not know it, but schools across North Texas are using dogs as part of a deterrence program. Interquest Detection Canines is the nation’s recognized source for drug dogs, contraband detection and training. The company started in 1979, then decided to franchise. Matt and Brenda Hayes bought in.

The Interquest team, including 10 dogs and handlers for each, helps schools and companies sniff out contraband. (Photo: Toni Randle Cook)

“It was something we had never discussed before,” recalls Brenda.

She says God directed them. Matt had lost his job, and they had just moved.

“We decided to pray all weekend. At the end of the weekend we came back to one another and both of us heard, ‘go into the dog business,’” says Brenda. “Neither of us knew anything about dogs. We called a friend of a friend down in Houston, and Matt asked, ‘Is there something we can do to help you?,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, do you want to buy the first franchise?”’

Today, there are 35 Interquest Detection Canines nationwide. The Hayeses run the North Texas franchise – the largest in the company. It provides random, periodic visits to clients based on their needs and goals.

Their clientele varies from administrators of office buildings to proprietors of entertainment venues, from manufacturing companies to operators rehabilitation facilities. But their primary customers are schools.

The Hayeses have contracts with 150 school districts in their territory – which consists of an area from Tyler to Abilene and up to the Red River.

“Schools are charged with providing a safe environment for the kids who have to be there,” explains Matt. “They are allowed to enforce policy violations.”

The Hayeses joke that they are “professional tattle tales.” And it’s working! The program has reduced the number of contraband-related suspensions and expulsions.

Matt recalls a student approaching him and saying, “I’m so glad you are here. It’s a good reason to tell my friends I don’t want to do that stuff.”

Interquest Detection Canines perform random checks at schools and can only be directed to a general area (this hallway or this row of cars). They do not target an individual’s locker or vehicle. Rather the dogs will sniff all items in the vicinity.

Since they are a private company, they can train their dogs to find a variety of odors. But they note not everything the dogs detect are illegal. For example, Interquest Detection Canines may conduct a random check of an industry that doesn’t allow alcohol on the premises. While alcohol is not illegal to possess if you are 21 years of age, it could go against an employer’s policy to have it.

The Hayeses currently have 10 working dogs. Each is matched with a handler based on the two personalities. The dogs live with their handlers during the school year. They return to the Hayes’ home over the summer because school is out and there is less work. The dogs spend those months in training.

“It’s an art form, learning to work a dog,” says Brenda. “And you never perfect it. You are always getting better.”

This year, the Hayeses are celebrating their 20th anniversary with Interquest Detection Canines.

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Toni Randle-Cook

Toni Randle-Cook is a contributing writer for AT Magazine.