We agree. But there's also another deep dark secret surrounding the main topic of the story: bed bug sniffing dogs.
The Times’ excellent Penelope Green follows one such dog and its handler around to several homes whose residents suspect they have bed bugs. One mother of 7-month-old twins wells up in tears as the dog delivers four alerts—following a $5,000 heat treatment to get rid of the pests.
But it's not clear whether the dog handler actually saw any bed bugs. That’s a critical step in sorting fact from false alarms.
"False positives are something that’s seriously wrong in the extermination industry and need to be addressed," says John Furman, the president of Boot-a-Pest, who was named the best bed bug exterminator by New York Magazine last year. "The dog’s alert is not proof that you have bed bugs. Don’t be fooled when these companies tell you the dog finds what we can’t see—that’s nonsense."
Moreover, Furman doesn’t trust the training, practices and methods of the dogs generally.
For example, even while off duty, bed bug sniffing dogs should be fed only as a reward for sniffing bed bugs, and that requires a dedicated lifestyle commitment by the handler, graphically described in today’s Times article.
Unfortunately for those who hire the dogs, inexperienced or uncommitted handlers—or shady ones, who count on false positives to sell extermination services—abound.
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