Dogs sniffing for bed bugs. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry — neither had I, until Roxana Sierra asked us for help with a $660 bill. I’ll let her pick up this story.
I rented an apartment in Clintonville, Ohio, from August 2012 to July 28, 2013. After I moved out, the management sent me a Move Out Statement with a charge of $660 for a “bed bug treatment.”
I was very surprised [to learn about this] treatment, since as far as I know I do not have bed bugs. I checked exhaustively in my bed/furniture and didn’t find a single bed bug (dead or alive), nor any other kind of traces like blood on the sheets or the mattress.
I talked to the manager of the apartment and she said they bring “trained dogs” to sniff for the bed bugs and they reacted “positively.” I asked for a picture of a bed bug or any other physical evidence, but they did not have any.
I have been trying to negotiate with them to prove I do not have bed bugs. I proposed to get a professional for a visual inspection of my current apartment, but they refused; they say it does not make any sense to do it since the dogs already reacted positively.
After I reviewed the correspondence between Sierra and the apartment managers, I could tell that this was going nowhere. I requested that the manager meet her in the middle on this bed bug treatment. Here is the manager’s response.
Unfortunately, I have to decline the offer to split the cost, as I cannot set a precedent with splitting costs we have incurred as a result of a residents move out charges. Fair Housing prohibits me from treating residents differently. We had several apartments that incurred the same costs for bed bug treatment. (None of them were located near her).
With that reply, I suggested to her that she get a pest control company to inspect her current residence for any signs of bed bugs (since most companies will perform an initial inspection for free) and get a report from them.
Sierra also took a good step on her own when she contacted Dr. Susan Jones, an entomologist at Ohio State University, for her input. Here is a bit from Dr. Jones:
The team approach to bed bug detection using a bed bug-sniffing dog and its handler can be a useful tool for detecting bed bugs, but it is not totally reliable.
Research shows that canine-handler teams can provide vastly different results, with some being quite poor at bed bug detection and others being quite good. My advice to people hiring these teams is that a “positive alert” has to be followed up with someone actually finding the bed bug(s) or bringing in a second independent team (no idea of previous findings of the first team) to see if a positive alert occurs in the same location in the room and then following up to actually locate the bed bug(s).