Private Drug Dogs, Sniff Out Secrets and Fears

Dogs have always been used for a multitude of tasks to help law enforcement, but now the talents of drug sniffing dogs are hitting a little closer to home.

By | Posted: July 17, 2014, 11 a.m. PST

I have never tried drugs of any kind in my life, they scare me, but I can’t say I wouldn’t be nervous to have my home sniffed by a drug-dog. It’s a completely irrational fear, but what if someone who lived in the house before me hid something somewhere and it was pinned on me?! Clearly I have been watching too many rom-com’s in which innocent people are mistaken for big time drug dealers and a hilarious love story ensues, but you get the idea, it could happen. My friends went on a honeymoon and found a joint hidden under the tiny carpet of their hotel safe, they debated how to alert authorities in Jamaica with no proof of where it came from, but were afraid to leave it thinking the hotel would find it and blame them; they flushed it down the toilet in a hurry and got a pretty funny story to tell (as did I.)

So what do my irrational drug fears have to do with dogs you ask? Well now, if you have such a fear that there are drugs anywhere near you without your knowledge, you don’t have to just wonder if you’re crazy or overly suspicious. In a new trend, police aren’t the only people who want to uncover hidden drugs in the homes and work places. Now, regular people are opening drug-sniffing dog agencies, private companies that are hired to find drug paraphernalia anywhere you need it found.

 

 

Drug Dog

 Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe via Getty Images

 

 

Anne Wills, owner of Dogs Finding Drugs, tells NPR she takes calls from businesses, schools, halfway houses, landlords, ex-husbands or wives involved in divorce or custody cases, as well as parents. "When we first launched the businesses, it went basically viral overnight," says Wills.

Companies like these are popping up around the country and are usually used to confirm or ease fears of parents.

Tom Robichaud works with his dog, Ben, to find a scent of drugs. Robichaud, a former dog trainer, offers parents the tools of police without the risk of prosecution or prison making it a tempting option or many parents with suspicions of drug use. Robichaud’s own brother died of overdose and he understands the plight of parents dealing with teens and drugs. Ben gets to work right away and likely finds at least a scent of drugs because of its lasting odor. If drugs are found, it is at the discretion of Tom Robinchaud whether or not he goes to the police with this information. "If, by chance, my dog does come across, let's say, a meth lab [or] a big amount of a narcotic, I have to call the police," Robichaud says in the NPR interview.

One step further than this, schools are also taking advantage of these services to help discourage drug use away from home.

According to LATimes, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District will spend $27,000 for drug-sniffing dogs to search their High Schools and Middle Schools. Students found with contraband will be escorted to the school office for counseling and further investigation.

"I'm not sure that we'll ever stop everyone from bringing [illegal items] on campus," school board member Martha Fluor tells LATimes. "However, the dogs provide another reason not to bring those things on campus and not to use them outside of school."

While there are obvious uses for this line of work, there are complications to this new private business. The American Civil Liberties Union has spoken up against dogs stating that there is a fine line of privacy intrusion, discussing the slippery slope of hiring dogs to check out neighbors and friends.

It is also important to note that if drug paraphernalia is found through these drug-sniffing dog agencies, it might not be upheld as useful information in court.

"We can't vouch for them," John Kimbrough, district attorney in Orange County, Texas, where a private drug-sniffing-dog business is working in schools and private homes tells NPR. These companies might be beneficial, but there is no official national accreditation to rely on. Kimbrough says the process is hardly foolproof, and evidence from a privately owned dog might not pass legal muster.

Robinchaud agrees that there needs to be more regulation within this new business, but the right steps are already being made. He knows that he cannot change the lives of these parents and children, but for the parents to know what is going on, helps with the process going forward.

Would you ever hire a drug-sniffing dog? Tell us in the comments below.

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