SAN ANTONIO – The devastating school shooting in Florida pushed a San Antonio nonprofit to provide extra protection at schools nationwide.
Those extra eyes belong to a dedicated group of veterans, police officers and dogs getting a second chance.
Brad Croft with nonprofit Universal K9 in San Antonio pairs dogs with both police officers and veterans for free. Those people come from all over the country to meet their new dogs and to start training.
"We're putting out 20-40 dogs every six weeks," Croft said. "We very quickly learned that there were smaller departments that needed dogs that couldn't afford them."
Croft said each K-9 from for-profit companies can cost around $15,000 to $20,000.
"There's four cops in my department, so this is a huge, huge advancement for the department," said veteran and police officer Todd Adkins from Panama, Oklahoma. He has already been training for a week in San Antonio.
Most dogs go to veterans. Some of those veterans are officers. Unlike other K-9 companies, however, funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs allows Universal K9 to donate the dogs for free.
Veterans can use their GI bill, take the Universal K9 classes and get a dog for free. When that happens, they own the dog. The VA doesn't and neither does a police department, meaning they can use the dog for whatever purpose they want.
"I'm going to use mine for all street patrol, schools, everything," said Army veteran and police Officer Chris White from Osawatamie, Kansas.
White and Adkins were devastated by the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida.
"I have two kids," White said, relating to nationwide stress after the massacre.
"There's way too many school shootings," Adkins said.
Both plan to volunteer time with their K-9s at schools in their towns.
"I have an elementary school, middle school and high school in my town that I'll be working at. They were all for it," Adkins said.
"If I can get in there and make sure the cars coming through the parking lot are safe and the kids inside are safe, that's what we want to do," White said.
The dogs can work with many types of explosives, such as potassium chlorate, ammonium nitrate, TNT and PETN. They can also sniff out drugs and some can apprehend an intruder.
"Just the presence of the dog will definitely deter somebody," Adkins said.
The Universal K9 dogs said 90 percent of its dogs are rescues.
"It not only saves the lives of children, it saves the lives of dogs and it gives a veteran a sense of self-worth because they can go out and protect," Croft said.
Anyone interested in becoming a K-9 handler or giving a rescue dog to the program can visit this website.