Private Drug-Sniffing Dogs: A Good or Bad Idea?

Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe via Getty Images

Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe via Getty Images

Drug-sniffing dogs are no longer limited to law enforcement. The industry is being privatized by individual trainers and their dogs, who search the homes of people who feel they have a family member that may be using illegal drugs.

These businesses utilize the same techniques used by law enforcement, but are not legally obligated to report what they find.

Tom Robichaud, owner of Discreet Intervention, says that in extreme cases (such as finding a meth lab or a large amount of a narcotic) he will be morally compelled to alert the police.

In typical cases, if the dog alerts on a small amount of anarcotic, full discretion is given to the parents on whether or not they want to involve the police. As a result, these private drug-sniffing businesses are exploding.

While the law protects citizens against unwarranted police searches, it has not yet been amended to prevent unwanted searches by nosy neighbors.

Law enforcement officials are concerned that these types of private investigations could accidentally interfere with ongoing police investigations, putting both officers and the dog handler in a potentially dangerous situation.

Beyond that, private drug-sniffing dogs are not required to complete the evaluations and certifications that law enforcement dogs and handlers do. Therefore, the evidence they find may not be admissible in court.

Read more. 

What are your thoughts on private drug-sniffing dogs? Leave your comments below.


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  • Tie Dye’s Momma

    What I don't like about this: Where is the line drawn between an illegal search and an allowable search? This article speaks to parents with children, but does that mean they can hire a search of their 19 year old son's dorm room? And if the dog alerts to "drugs" that don't belong to the client's child, what then? Personally I think if a parent needs to bring a drug sniffing dog into their teenager's bedroom, there are more problems than the potential substance abuse. I know when I was accused of being an addict as a teenager (when really I was only dealing with depression) having my room searched was just twisting the knife in an already open and oozing wound. But a drug dog on top of it? In my case, at least, this would have made our situation much worse.

  • Tie Dye’s Momma, I would like to take the time to address
    your concerns and maybe in some ways agree with you. I operate a company which
    does just what has been described here. Private residential searches are a very
    small portion of my business as we focus on Schools, Businesses and have a
    federal facility as a staple client. When I founded Specialized K9 detection
    service for this federal facility, I found no one around us who would provide
    assistance in this area. As a retired Police school resource officer and DARE
    instructor, my background in assisting families in crisis made this a perfect
    fit for us. I have been dealing with residential clients in need of assistance
    with heroin addiction which has become more than an epidemic in New York. That
    said, you are correct that if a parent goes to these lengths there is a much
    deeper problem, and all my clients have said they are at the end of their rope
    and didn’t know where else to turn. As far as anything being illegal, a
    homeowner has the ability to approve such a search including all areas of the
    home. There would be exceptions such as a private apartment attached to the
    house or similar situations that I would take into consideration before
    accepting a job. That should answer the dorm room statement where we could not
    provide that service. That said, any university could have a dog walk the hallways
    of dorms, privately or through law enforcement.

    You are also right about the trust issue and there are arguments
    on both sides that can be compelling. From my perspective, having my experience
    in dealing with families is a bonus as I am able to do so much more than just
    come in and have my dogs sniff around. I maintain many great contacts for assistance
    referrals which may also help to provide answers or solutions. While I would
    not always recommend a K9’s intervention, I do find it is a valuable tool under
    the right circumstances.

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