Maryville Housing Authority has hired Dog Inspectors to check its two high-rise properties for bed bugs.
The trained K-9s and their handlers will be at Broadway Towers Monday-Wednesday and at Maryville Towers July 21-22, according to Leasing Supervisor Julie Chaney. Residents were notified by letters dated July 7.
“This is just a preventive thing,” Chaney told The Daily Times in a telephone interview Thursday. “It is to help ease the minds of our residents. Hopefully we won’t find anything, but we heard their concerns and we are being proactive.”
Chaney said Thursday that Maryville Housing Authority has had “very few cases” of bed bugs in the past. Each time residents’ apartments are treated with Maryville Housing Authority absorbing the cost, she said in a separate interview with The Daily Times in June, when one apartment was scheduled to be treated for bed bugs.
Sometimes it takes more than one treatment, she added, and apartments that are treated for bed bugs are checked monthly by pest control contractors.
“Tenants get really upset. They worry,” Chaney said of when residents hear an apartment has bed bugs. “If we have a case, we will ask, ‘Who has been in your apartment?’ because we want to make sure our bases are covered. You can sit on a couch and then go home and sit on your couch, and you’ll have a bed bug.”
It has nothing to do with being clean or dirty, she stressed.
“It is not unusual to have these,” she said. “They are bad everywhere. We have been really lucky here.”
Chaney said Maryville Housing Authority has its pest control contractors check for bed bugs monthly, but staff recently learned that other housing authorities are using trained K-9s to sniff out bed bugs and their eggs.
“Bed bugs are hard to detect until they have become an infestation in your home,” writes Maryville Housing Authority Facilities Director J.R. Davis in the July 7 letter to residents. “MHA hopes this measure of inspection will help to eradicate the pests before they can become a bigger problem.”
Residents do not have to be home for the inspections, according to the letter, as Maryville Housing Authority maintenance staff will accompany Dog Inspectors.
How it works
Dog Inspectors, with locations in Sevierville and Franklin, uses trained German shepherds and Belgian Malinois dogs to detect bed bugs and their eggs.
“We don’t treat or remediate,” co-owner and general manager Chuck Nelson noted in a telephone interview with The Daily Times on Thursday. “We don’t sell anything” which removes any incentive to discover an infestation that is not there.
The K-9s, which Nelson said receive the same training as dogs used to detect drugs and bombs, are trained in the odor of bed bugs and can smell their eggs as well. Trained in passive alert, the dogs will sit and point with their noses if they find something, Nelson explained.
There is little for residents to do to prepare for a K-9 inspection, Nelson said, calling the inspections “very noninvasive.”
“What we’ll do is put bedspreads up (on the bed) so the dogs can sniff around the box springs and turn off any ceiling fans or other fans because airflow will affect the dogs’ accuracy,” he explained. “Other than that, we will pick up any hazards to the dogs — medication or syringes that are in the floor — just to keep the dogs safe.”
Dog Inspectors does ask that residents refrain from smoking in their apartments, preferably starting the morning of their inspection, because the smoke can make it harder for the dogs to smell the bed bugs and their eggs, Nelson added.
Dog Inspectors will complete a report indicating where any alert is found, but will not disturb the bugs or eggs, Nelson said. Many clients have the dogs reinspect after spaces have received pest control treatment.
“We’re big on doing this on a proactive basis,” said Nelson, noting Dog Inspectors does residential and commercial inspection, including government buildings and rental cabins. “We want to catch things early before they become an issue.”
This article was originally published in The Daily Times.