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In April of 2010 we decided to purchase a bed bug detecting dog from J&K Canine Academy, which is located in High Springs, Florida, and which is regarded as one of the best scent-detection canine training companies in the country. At the time of our purchase, there were only a handful of bed bug dogs in the tri-state area, and in most instances, these dogs were owned by pest control companies seeking to provide their customers with a better bed bug inspection than the visual ones they were already providing.
In our case, I had already performed hundreds of visual bed bug inspections in New York and New Jersey before making a decision to incorporate a new company that would solely provide independent bed bug dog inspections. In making this decision, we relied on the opinion of some of the best pest control companies in New York City – that 3rd-party, independent bed bug inspections were the most conclusive, yet most honest inspection available. These companies advertised as much on their websites: if you hired their company to do a dog inspection, they would sub-contract an independent company to perform the bed bug inspection, so that the result of the inspection (positive for bed bugs or not) could be trusted, and would not further benefit that inspection company in any way.
Those companies were correct, and shift # 1 was underway: independent bed bug inspections would become the industry standard. As a result, our business model prospered (along with other independent inspection companies) during the summer and fall of 2010, when the ability of dogs to find bed bugs became front page news. One of our biggest sources of advertising at one point was The Late Show with David Letterman, who would joke about bed bugs for nights on end in his monologues. Yet as funny as his jokes were, the problem was very real, and we were finding bed bug infestations on a regular basis for weeks on end.
By the turn of the year, there was a flood of new businesses that were hitting the market advertising independent dog inspections. People who had purchased their bed bug dogs in the fall had waited the 3-4 months until their dogs were trained and ready to work. Additionally, pest control companies who had previously hired independent companies to perform their inspections were now purchasing their own dogs. Training facilities were readying dogs as quickly as possible to keep up with demand. Yet for many of us already performing inspections, we saw shift # 2 coming, simply because we were out in the field hearing our customer’s concerns on a daily basis. One case in point occurred in the fall of 2010…
At one point last fall, we were hired to perform individual inspections within an apartment building in Bergen Couuty, New Jersey. More specifically, we were hired because many of the tenants were questioning the findings of the 1st bed bug dog inspection their building had contracted, where we learned in a 200+ unit building a dog had detected the presence of bed bugs in over 80 apartments. However, most of those tenants had never seen a bed bug, or experienced any bed bug bites. When we wound up re-inspecting 20 of those units, our dog didn’t detect a bed bug presence in any of those apartments. The end result was 2 separate bed bug inspections being performed in 20 apartments that had yielded 2 entirely different results.
Now, I know dogs can accurately detect the presence of bed bugs, and that K9 inspections are without question the best bed bug inspection method available. When J&K Canine Academy dogs were independently tested by the University of Florida, they were found to be 97.5% accurate in finding bed bugs in a hotel room environment, and the U of F published that study. In fact, the 97.5% statistic that the industry refers to when validating the ability of dogs to find bed bugs can be attributed to only one company, and that’s to the bed bug detecting dogs at J&K Canine.
But what went wrong at the apartment building in New Jersey, and what does it have to do with shift #2?
Shift # 2 became the public’s insistence that a company performing a bed bug dog inspection be qualified to perform a visual inspection in order to support a dog’s findings, particularly in the event of a positive alert, and especially as margins for error within a K9 team’s findings were often distinguishable from company to company.
But what had happened since the summer of 2010 until now? Dogs were entering the marketplace where the business owner and dog handler (usually the same person) had no visual inspection experience whatsoever. Training facilities were rushing dogs to market without the right amount of training, or without the highest level of certification. Some dog training facilities were certifying their own dogs, without relying on a stringent 3rd party standard. Pest control companies were purchasing dogs where not only did they have a vested interest in finding a bed bug infestation, but even they were hiring handlers with no bed bug inspection experience. Many pest control companies were also experiencing turnover with their handlers, which is critical when the inspection is so reliant upon the dog & handler relationship. Any combination of these scenarios could have resulted in what happened at that apartment building in New Jersey, but to those tenants who were told they had a bed bug infestation that probably didn’t exist, the result was unacceptable.
As we’re beginning our 2nd year of utilizing a bed bug detecting canine, we continued to do all we can to provide the most qualified, honest bed bug inspection available. As you perform your due diligence in making a decision on which company to hire for your bed bug inspection, I can vouch for what we’ll offer should we be fortunate enough to receive your inspection business:
1. An independent, no vested-interest inspection
2. A dog that’s received the highest level of training in the industry, combined with the highest standard of certification available
3. A dog that doesn’t over-detect
4. A handler with as much visual experience as any handler currently inspecting for bed bugs, and who will make an effort to support the findings of the dog
5. A willingness to answer all of your questions in a qualified, patient manner – at the time of inspection, as well as any time you may call before or afterward