Teens

Worried parents of teens hire drug-sniffing dogs to search their homes

Dec. 10, 2012 at 9:38 AM ET

If you suspected your child was using drugs and hiding them in your home, would you hire a drug-sniffing dog to root them out?

Some concerned parents are doing just that, at a cost of several hundred dollars.

“I was very worried that my daughter was hanging around with kids that were doing drugs,” one Houston mother said in a report that aired on TODAY on Monday. Ava, who didn't want her last name used, hired a private company to bring Roxie, a white German shepherd who used to work for the military, into her Houston home to check for illegal drugs.

Ava was worried about what Roxie might find. “Oh, I was very nervous that she was going to find drugs in the garage,” she said.

The dog with the super-sensitive nose did indeed find marijuana in the garage, a discovery that was difficult for Ava and her daughter.

“She was upset that I invaded her privacy,” Ava said.

But it led to a conversation that Ava believes helped turn her daughter’s life around. The girl found a new group of friends and improved her grades.

“The reason why I did it is to keep her safe and off drugs,” Ava said.

Ava seemingly got the outcome she wanted. But using a drug-sniffing dog can make matters worse, said child psychologist Jeffrey Gardere, a TODAY contributor.

“Looking for the drugs with a dog, I think, is an overkill,” Gardere said on TODAY. “What it comes down to is having a relationship, and I don’t know if you can do that if you’re bringing in drug-sniffing dogs.”

When Roxie goes to work, handler Kristen Maurer takes her through a home, looking for the scent of illegal drugs while the parent is present. “Roxie can find drugs in places that parents will never find,” Maurer said.

If the dog signals she’s found something, the parent must uncover whatever it is.

“I just say ‘My dog’s alerted in this area and if I were you I would search the entire area,’” Maurer said. “I kind of give them an idea of what they need to do next.”

Using a dog like Roxie can help parents who feel they have no other options.

“It’s a tool that the parents can use to help get their child the help that they need,” Maurer said.

Handlers like Maurer report a steady business for the searches, which can cost $200 to $500.

The service is similar to one launched in 2010 in Maryland called Dogs Finding Drugs. The Baltimore-based non-profit organization has highly trained dogs that can detect drugs, firearms and explosives.

Would you ever hire a drug-sniffing dog to search your own home? Sound off on our Facebook page.

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