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Using Canines for Bed Bug Detection

Today, a dog’s sense of smell is used in many different ways—drug detection, bomb detection, search and rescue, and now the war on bed bugs. With that being said, I am writing this article to bring awareness to property owners, landlords, and tenants.

More and more, you will see pest control companies using their own “in-house” bed bug detection canines. Canines are one of the best tools available to locate live bed bugs and their eggs. A canine’s sense of smell is at least 10,000 times stronger than a human’s. They are very capable of finding bed bugs in places we can only imagine but not verify. However, everyone should be cognizant that the success of the K9 detection team rests solely on the quality of training and maintenance of training.

Pest control companies are very new to the world of scent detection canines and bed bug detection canines specifically. With the epidemic of bed bugs, many companies have popped up in the last two to three years with bed bug detection canines looking for the fast buck. More often pest control companies are turning their technicians into canine handlers with very little or no canine experience. It may look easy to handle canines, but there is quite a bit of training that goes into the canine and the canine handler.

When looking to hire a pest control company that utilizes canines for bed bug detection asking for proof of canine team certification isn’t enough. Bed bug sniffing canines may or may not be certified or may be certified by NESDECA, a certification implemented by pest control companies. Be aware that there are several reputable certifying organizations within the United States that certify bed bug detection canine teams that are not affiliated with the pest control industry and many have been established for decades. Additional certification bodies—good and bad–may be springing up as I write this. (Keep in mind that this is more or less a brand new sub-industry to canine scent detection.)

The bed bug epidemic has cost rental property owners thousands of dollars. A sales pitch often used by pest control companies is to report that a bed bug sniffing canine has “alerted,” when the canine may or may not have. They then give a hard sales pitch on how they can take care of the problem. (I have personally seen this happen over and over.)

The important message: Look at all options when thinking of hiring a pest control company that uses bed bug detection canines. Independent canine detection companies not associated with pest control do not have a stake in the outcome of the inspection and, therefore, may yield a more unbiased conclusion.

Things a consumer should be aware of or ask for when hiring a bed bug detection company:

  • Are the canine teams certified by a third party organization? (This doesn’t have to be NESDECA.)
  • Recommendations from other customers.
  • Is the handler experienced? Experience and integrity are key words when hiring any scent detection canine service. Many bed bug companies promote the qualifications of their canines but mention nothing about the experience of the handler.
  • The handler and company should be dedicated to ongoing training with their canine. Ask them about their ongoing training program.
  • The canine team or company should not have any financial interest in finding bed bugs.
  • Does the company tell you there team is 100% accurate? No dog or human is 100% accurate.
  • Make sure the company has liability insurance.

If the company possesses all these traits, they should be able to qualify as an expert witness in a legal proceeding.

Hopefully by giving you some knowledge of how this industry works, this article can save you a lot of time and expense in the ongoing war on bed bugs.

This article was written by Tim Tortorelli from ProAct Canines.


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