ABC 20/20 Bed Bug Treatment Expose

Late this afternoon, we received an update from the producer at ABC's 20/20, letting us know that the segment focusing on pest management and canine detection teams will not be airing tonight as planned. The piece did not make it into the final program and they do not have a new air date at this point in time. PPMA will remain in touch with its contacts at the show and will keep the NESDCA membership apprised of any further developments. Again, at this point in time, the segment is not scheduled to air.

ABC’s upcoming 20/20 episode, airing Friday May 9th, investigates potential bed bug treatment frauds. The suspicion is disreputable companies drum up unnecessary treatments based upon the lack lustre performance of a bed bug dog.

Detective clip art

The investigation is believed to be in New York City and covers 10 different pest control companies. This premise is one of the reasons Bed Bug Mutts elected to not perform eradication services and remain an independent early bed bug detection service.

Paul Bello posted on the Bedbugger forum the advance notice of the upcoming segment. He and Lou Sorkin, both consulting entomologists, were asked to participate as experts and to inspect the same locations as the pest control companies worked. Neither Paul nor Lou knows the identity of the companies involved.

K9 Scent Detection Protocols

It will be interesting to see if these companies follow the generally accepted protocols of canine scent detection:

  1. Should the dog alert does the handler look for physical evidence to verify the canine’s alert before rewarding the dog? This is called the ‘show me the bed bug’ protocol; afterall you can’t get a drug conviction without the drugs.
  2. Is the team certified and is the certification current? E.g. certification was completed within the last 12 months. There are a number of third-party canine accreditation agencies:  NESDCA, WDDO, IAOCPI, and IBBMA. They all list teams that have passed their certification exams.
  3. Is the dog trained to alert on live scent and viable eggs only? And is the dog trained off of dead scent; this is particularly important when the inspection is post-treatment.
  4. Is the dog trained to a variety of concentration levels of the target? E.g. one or two bugs versus 20-30 or 40 bed bugs present as different scent profiles.
  5. Is the dog trained to alert on only one scent target? E.g. a number of years ago dogs were trained to termites and bed bugs. Although the dog recognizes the different targets it is difficult to prove in court the dog was indicating one target scent over theother.
  6. And last, is the dog in good health and looks comfortable and enjoying their ‘job’. A dog in poor condition or lacking self-confidence cannot be counted day in and day out, pardon the pun, to be ‘up to snuff’.

The Relationship Is Key

A good scent detection team is all about the relationship between the dog and handler. The dog only knows what it has been trained and it is the handler’s responsibility to ensure the dog is in position to detect the target, leaves no area unchecked, and to interpret the dog’s reaction.

UPDATE:  At the last minute the segment focusing on pest management and canine detection teams did not air as planned. No new air date is planned at this time. The piece was entitled "True Confessions" did feature an undercover investigation on valet parkers, lifeguards and electronics salemen;  minus the pest control footage.


Posted on May 8, 2014 .