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Las Vegas Dog trained to sniff out bedbugs
Posted At: May 12, 2010 12:00 AM | Posted By : admin
Related Categories: LAS VEGAS BED BUG EXTERMINATOR AND PEST CONTROL,LOCAL NEWS & INFO

Dog trained to find pests wherever they hide:  Dog trained to focus on scent.

Sara is a golden, furry, energetic, jump-up-to-greet you ball of playful energy that wouldn't hurt a flea.  But a bedbug? That's different.   Actually, the amiable pup -- she's just over a year old -- is the companies secret weapon in all warm-blooded creatures' continuing battle against bedbugs. She's trained to sniff out the creepy parasites in the same manner that other dogs' keen olfactory talents sniff out accelerants used in arsons and help to find bombs, drugs and people.  The owner of a company called K-9 Sweeps, brought Sara to Las Vegas in December. Since then, she has put her unusual skills to use in homes and businesses throughout the valley.  Bedbugs are tiny parasites that inhabit beds, carpeting, furniture of both the fabric and wicker variety, and any other surface that offers them access to human hosts. Once they find one, they'll feed on its blood. The result, in many cases, is itching and a reddish skin rash.Several surveys indicate that bedbug infestations have been increasing across the country in recent years. However, they're hard to detect and, because of their ease of transport and prodigious reproductive capabilities, hard to eliminate.  That's where Sara comes in. At the scene of a suspected infestation, the K-9 handler will walk Sara through a room, patting the surfaces -- beds, furniture, carpeting -- he wants her to sniff. When Sara detects the scent of a bedbug, she halts and shows where it is by pointing with her nose.  The handler marks the spot. Then, after Sara has finished, he'll return with magnifying glass in hand to confirm Sara's almost infallible find. The owner moved to Las Vegas 13 years ago and had been working in sales. So when his friend asked if Las Vegas was home to any bedbug-sniffing dogs, The owner, whose resume also includes a stint in pest control many years ago -- was intrigued. We did some digging and found none. Given the surfeit of hotel rooms here alone, "I thought, 'Wow, what an opportunity.' "  So this seemed interesting. It's not so far out of the realm of my knowledge. It's an interesting concept (with) a lot of potential." Hotel rooms are, in fact, a prime target for bedbugs because so many people check in and out of them.  Unlike cockroaches and some other pests, the presence of bedbugs doesn't signal poor housekeeping or bad hygiene. They can be easily transported in luggage -- either placed on the floor of a hotel room or stored in a plane's cargo hold -- and can be brought home by travelers who never even know they're there.  If I'm a frequent traveler, I'm more likely to have them than my neighbor who never gets on an airplane," he says.   K-9 Sweeps notes that his business so far has been "probably 60-40 residential. But this is new, too. There are some people, I'm pretty sure, in town commercially who don't even know it's here."  It's been around three or four years. It's new to Las Vegas. ... And it's taken some time for people to understand that this is a proven technology and not voodoo science or something." Sara received more than 600 hours of training in Florida - then they trained together for a week before they returned to Las Vegas.  Sara's training in "scent discrimination" is a 24/7 affair, with the handler rewarding Sara with food and praise whenever she detects the scent of a bedbug and ignore other scents deliberately placed nearby. Some of her ongoing training involves placing vials of bedbugs around the home and then having Sara search for them.  Accuracy rates are difficult to determine, but "there have been studies that have proven dogs are 93 (percent) to 95 percent accurate" at finding bedbugs. Sara also can inspect a room more quickly than a human. It would take an inspector 45 minutes to an hour to inspect a standard hotel room for bedbugs, and the process would include flipping over mattresses, opening box springs and other heavy-duty work, all for an accuracy rate of between 30 percent and 40 percent.  We can go through that same room with her in about four minutes and have (an accuracy rate) of plus-90 (percent).  "I'd have to go through every nook and cranny looking for something that's a millimeter big and the color of my skin. She just goes on scent. That's all. The above is a recap of an interview and article published in the Las Vegas Review Journal. 

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