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Dog Helps Firefighters Battle Bedbugs

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Aired 1/24/11

A half-dozen fire stations in San Diego have been repeatedly infested with bedbugs. To help get rid of them, local firefighters have turned to a familiar firehouse friend—a dog.

— To help get rid of bedbugs, local firefighters have turned to a familiar firehouse friend—a dog.

You’ve heard of “fight fire with fire”—but for some San Diego firefighters it’s “fight bedbugs with dogs.”

Specifically, it’s one dog, named Colt, who is trained to sniff out bedbugs.

Janna Siftar is the owner of K9 Pest Detective. She rescued Colt from the pound. She said Colt is trained in a “scent” technique called “passive alert.”

“Passive alert means he won’t scratch or bark when he detects a bug. He will find the scent of a bedbug and then just sit next to it,” said Siftar

She also said, dogs that are trained like Colt can detect infestations of bedbugs early on, before they get out of hand. And the scent-trained dogs can lessen property damage during inspections.

“Instead of having to rip through box springs or mattresses, Colt just ‘scents’ them, and that keeps the inspection much less invasive,” Siftar said.

One reason for bedbug problems in fire stations comes from the type of work firefighters do.

Todd Dubler is the fire captain at San Diego Fire and Rescue Station in downtown San Diego. He said it’s no secret why firefighters bring bedbugs back to the station.

“85 percent of our responses are medical aid. We’re in close physical contact with individuals, their clothes, bedding and homes,” explained Dubler.

Colt’s nosing around supported that theory. He sniffed around baseboards and beds for about ten minutes, and then discovered a few suspicious nesting spots.

Rob Cartwright is the CFO at Cartwright Pest Control. He immediately inspected the areas with a flashlight and magnifying equipment. Cartwright said dogs like Colt make his job a lot easier.

“Bedbugs give off pheromones. When the dog scents the bug, we can come in with pest control and take care of the problem immediately,” explained Cartwright.

He also said, “Human inspection is about 35 percent effective for finding bedbugs, but trained dogs have a least double that success rate.”

Colt was a success on finding trouble spots at Fire Station One. He was rewarded with a treat— though it’s unlikely to be his last.

His next assignment includes inspecting a hotel, a moving van and a private home.

K9 Pest Detectives charge about $300 for a bedbug inspection, but the price varies widely depending on the size of the place to be inspected.

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