Dealing with Multiple Family Housing & Bed Bugs

Learning how to handle bed bug infestations in multiple family housing can be intimidating. It’s not a subject any property manager wants to deal with, but we must, because the consequences of not dealing with it properly are far worse than doing it right the first time.

Do you have a written bed bug plan? That’s the first, of many questions, you should ask yourself. Do all your employees know what that plan is? From office employees to maintenance employees, have they all been trained on what to do if a tenant complains of bed bugs or if one is seen? Has that plan been reviewed by a licensed pest control company who has experience in bed bugs?

The three most common approaches property managers use when it comes to bed bugs: ignoring-the-problem (not legal), tackle the units that tenants complain about (complaint based) or a proactive approach to protect tenants and property known as an inspection-based protocol.

Let’s talk about the complaint-based approach to bed bug management. Here is an interesting statistic given by a leading bed bug attorney who represents tenants and landlords in bed bug cases. Every lawsuit regarding bed bugs in multi family housing situations has been brought against properties that used complaint-based protocol. Yes, you read that correctly EVERY SINGLE CASE!

Every lawsuit regarding bed bugs in multi family housing situations has been brought against properties that used complaint-based protocol.
— A leading attorney specializing in bed bug lawsuits


That alone is enough to make many reading this switch to an inspection-based protocol. Others however are gamblers and are considering the cost factor versus the risk factor. Before you consider wagering on such an important issue you should know that an inspection-based protocol might actually be cheaper. Upfront costs tend to be more, but the end results will decrease treatment costs and so many other problems.  You’ll be thanking yourself for making the change.

First step in your new inspection based protocol is to choose a licensed pest control company. Document why you selected them. Do not base your choice on cost alone, as it will haunt you if you ever do have to go to court. Some factors to consider when choosing a pest control company:

  • Do they have experience in multi family housing?
  • Do they have multiple treatment approaches to deal with bed bugs?
  • Can I speak to other multi family housing accounts that they current service to learn about their experience?
  • Will they review my current pest control records?
  • Will they assist us in writing up a bed bug protocol?

Tenant and employee education is a very important step in treating bed bugs. Your pest control provider should be able to provide you with written material that includes tips to help with the prevention of spreading and what to look for. Your plan should include written information on details such as who records the complaint and who gets notified after the complaint is received.

Informing tenants on when, how and why inspections will take place will help ease their worries and make the process much easier. Green Dog Pest Service can make our dog/handler teams available for pre-inspection educational meetings so that tenants can meet the dogs ask questions and just be reassured that this is a simple, non-invasive process.

Your inspection-based plan should start with a full building inspection. Every single unit and all the common areas must be inspected in order to get a complete understanding of your current level of infestation. You cannot tackle a problem when you don’t know where it is! Many tenants have lived with bed bugs for months because they are either afraid to notify management or because they simply don’t have any idea that they have them. That is why it is imperative to get a full building inspection.

Elton searching books in a library of a building. All the sitting areas in the library were also searched. All common areas should be checked during the full building inspection. 

Elton searching books in a library of a building. All the sitting areas in the library were also searched. All common areas should be checked during the full building inspection. 


Following your full building inspection, your pest control company should provide you with a written treatment plan. Treatments should be started as soon as possible in all units or common areas deemed infested. Tenant cooperation is vitally important and every landlord should have a plan for non-cooperative tenants.

The first and last steps in your plan are the same… inspections!  Monitoring of units is vital to the success of an inspection-based plan. Some properties choose to do twice-annual full building inspections, with follow up on treated units. Others choose to start a monthly inspection schedule, randomizing units so that within a 12-month time period each unit and all common areas will be inspected at least twice. The regularly scheduled monthly inspections can be more convenient for maintenance staff and you’ll have inspections on property to follow up on treated units without a service call/charge. 

We believe the earliest detection available is with canine assisted bed bug inspections. Considering that bed bug populations double every two weeks, early detection is one of the best ways to get a handle on a ‘growing problem’.

Green Dog Pest Service can work with your pest control company of choice to create an inspection schedule that fits the needs of your property, your staff and your tenants. From a 4-plex to 500 or more apartments, our certified dog/handler teams can get the job done in the most cost effective and time efficient manner possible. 

Attention PMPs!

UCR Urban Entomology Program has recently developed “California Bed Bug Survey” for pest management professionals in collaboration with other UC entomologists. The information from the survey will be critical in providing the current status of bed bug problems in California and developing better strategies to combat bed bugs. The result from the survey will be presented at our future UCR Conference.

It just takes 5-10 minutes!  https://berkeley.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_bEqQixvGjA3LFjf

Training and fine tuning!

The dogs and handlers at Green Dog Pest Service are working with other handlers/canines today. 

We think networking with other professionals in the industry and keeping our handlers and dogs in top condition is one of the most important parts of our job and helps us better serve our clients

Our third-party certification organization of choice is the WDDO. The WDDO currently certifies Narcotics, Cadaver, Bed Bug, Explosive, Termite, Accelerant and Mold detection dogs.

The standards are second to none, with only those who can pass a “double blind” test, earning the designation of WDDO Certified Team.#caninescentdetection #bedbugs

Please visit www.wddo.org for more information on the testing standards! 

FAQs

The two most asked questions we get regarding our dogs are:

#1. How do you know when they find bugs?


A: When our dogs find bugs they are trained to alert by sitting or lying down and placing their nose as close as possible to the bed bugs. This is called a passive alert. There is no scratching, biting or barking.  Our dogs are trained to hold that alert position until they are released with either praise or a treat or until we move them to verify the find. By holding their alert the handler knows for a fact that the dogs are on their scent. 

Maggie alerted on the seem of the bed where the bedrail box meets the plywood that holds the mattress. Bugs were not visible during an inspection. After she alerted, screw drivers were used to remove the plywood from the frame and live bugs and eggs were found.

Maggie alerted on the seem of the bed where the bedrail box meets the plywood that holds the mattress. Bugs were not visible during an inspection. After she alerted, screw drivers were used to remove the plywood from the frame and live bugs and eggs were found.

#2. Are your dogs regular dogs when they are home?

A: Yes! Our dogs live with our family and are treated like family! They go on family hikes, sleep in our bedrooms and play with our kids. We think they have the best lives ever! 

Elton not helping  his owner study for the Pest Board exam!

Elton not helping  his owner study for the Pest Board exam!

Optimal use for canines

Canine assisted bed bug inspections are not practical for all types of locations; nor are they cost effective for every situation. Knowing when to use highly trained, certified detector dog teams, like those of Green Dog Pest Service, is the key to optimizing your bed bug inspections.


Sadie is on the larger size, but her quiet, passive alert, pin pointing the location of the bed bugs with her nose, makes her an ideal bed bug dog for our program. Sadie has great endurance and can search many units without becoming fatigued. She is just starting her career and is not certified yet. For that reason we are not using her for client inspections, she's just along for training and experience.

Sadie is on the larger size, but her quiet, passive alert, pin pointing the location of the bed bugs with her nose, makes her an ideal bed bug dog for our program. Sadie has great endurance and can search many units without becoming fatigued. She is just starting her career and is not certified yet. For that reason we are not using her for client inspections, she's just along for training and experience.

  •  High turn over locations such as hotel and lodging facilities that have many rooms to be inspected are a great place to use detector dogs. Searching 150 hotel rooms with canine teams goes much faster than visual searches and doesn’t require dismantling the room in order to get a thorough search in.

  • Locations that offer services to high-risk bed bug victims, like homeless shelters and medical or training facilities that caters to those individuals. We know that bed bugs can be found everywhere, including 5-Star resort hotels, but certain demographics have been proven to have bed bugs more often than others.

  •   High density housing locations, apartments, condos, SRO and similar multi housing locations are another ideal situation for canine inspections. As we know, not all people react to bed bugs bites and don’t realize they have bed bugs until the infestation is out of control with bugs moving through the wall voids to other units looking for meals. Searching units with canine teams can not only flag hot units, but can be used to rule out adjoining units that may not have any issues.

  •  Pin pointing areas to treat, when you can’t treat an entire area is an ideal situation to utilize detector dog teams. As an example an Emergency Room in a hospital that has a patient with bed bugs. The entire ER can’t be shut down after the patient leaves. Using canines to pin point locations to treat and to clear other areas allows for the ER to run as close to normal as possible during or after treatment.
  • Post treatment inspections are another great way to utilize bed bug detector dogs. Using dogs to search two weeks to one month post treatment can determine if the treatment was successful.


No search option is 100% accurate all of the time. Using canines can be more accurate than visual inspections alone; not to mention more cost effective for large-scale jobs.  

WDDO Certification Testing & Handler's Clinic Recap.

WDDO certified Master Trainer, David Latimer (left) working with a certified WDDO team during day one of the clinic.

WDDO certified Master Trainer, David Latimer (left) working with a certified WDDO team during day one of the clinic.

This past weekend, June 20 & 21, 2014, Green Dog Pest Service hosted a World Detector Dog Organization (W.D.D.O.) certification testing event and Master Trainer, David Latimer Handler’s clinic. In total 16 different dog/handler teams participated in either the clinic, the testing or both.

Participants were able to meet and network with bed bug inspection teams from Ontario, Canada, Vancouver, Canada, California’s Bay area, San Diego, greater Los Angeles, and Orange County. Despite the difference in geological locations, all these teams had one important commonality; they wanted to improve their handling skills, their dogs and the industry.

Latimer, from FSI K9 in Vincent Alabama, instructed handlers on some of the fundamentals of his teaching philosophy and most importantly, why he believes these fundamentals are important for bed bug scent detection canines as well as other scent detection disciplines like arson and narcotic searches. Skills were improved in the area of dogs working more independently, increasing their focus, off lead searching and holding an alert.

Certification testing was conducted on both days in the afternoon. The double blind testing methodology, which is mandatory in WDDO certification, was implemented. Dogs were challenged, not only by the hides, but the long day and the warm weather. Despite the challenges the dogs overall did well. For the teams who were unable to pass, most understood why and what they needed to improve upon.

Green Dog Pest Service believes third-party certification is one of the most important things canine scent detection teams can do to improve the bed bug dog industry.  There are many excellent scent detection teams who are currently not third-party certified, however, there are many more who are not certified because quite frankly, they couldn’t pass the test. Currently the California Structural Pest Control Board doesn’t require third-party certification for canines working in the pest control industry. If the goal of the Board is consumer protection, we believe it should mandate some form of annual or biennial (every 2 years) third-party certification testing and perhaps some specific CEUs on scent detection work/inspection.

While many in the pest control industry will balk at this idea and complain about the added expense and added time this would require, we believe that it will pay for itself many times over with an increase in consumer confidence. Third-party certification would weed out the incompetent teams, which reflect badly on the industry as a whole.

We are already making plans to host a clinic and certification testing event next spring. We hope we get more participants and more teams on the path to third-party certification. 

Handler's Clinic and WDDO Certification Testing

Green Dog Pest Service will be participating in the WDDO Certification testing and David Latimer Handler's Clinic June 20 & 21, 2014 in Hemet, CA. Continuing education in scent detection, dog handling and inspections are top priorities for our company.  We believe all dogs working in pest control scent detection should be third-party certified.

For more information about the clinic or the certification process please contact Deanna@greendogpestservice.com
 

 

Before You Hire a K9 Inspection Team

Most PMPs know exactly what to look for when they hire a new employee. They have "been there done that". But do you know what to look for when hiring a canine bed bug inspection team?

When a PMP hires a canine service for bed bug detection they need to ask the following questions:

  • Is the company licensed by the California Structural Pest Board? The CA Pest Board requires people using dogs to search for pests to be licensed in Branch 2! 
  • Are the dog handlers licensed Branch 2 Filed Representatives?
  • Are the dog/handler teams certified by a third-party sanctioning or certification organization INDEPENDENT of the trainer or where the dogs were purchased?  Please don't except the "Certified XYZ Bed Bug Dog" that was trained by XYZ training facility! Talk about a conflict of interest!
  • Do they keep training and deployment records on the dogs? 

Hiring a licensed and certified canine bed bug assisted inspection team, like Green Dog Pest Service, can go along way in protecting your company from costly litigation. If we are called upon to testify on your behalf or on behalf of your client, we can not only say we are a licensed company, using licensed handlers, but we are also third-party certified using Double-Blind methodology testing. We are also able to provide our training and deployment records.

Other things to keep in mind when considering a bed bug canine service to hire is how the dogs work. Green Dog Pest Service canines alert in a quiet, but very direct manner. They are not looking at the handler waiting for their reward, they are focused on the location of the bed bug odor. They may occasionally glance back at the handler to make sure they handler is paying attention to the alert, but all their energy is focused on the bed bug odor. 

Our dogs alert in passive manner. There is NO scratching, NO barking, NO excessive rooting through cushions or furniture. Our dogs are very focused and polite with their alerts.  You never have to worry about our dogs damaging furniture, carpets or outlets.

Making a thoughtful choice now can save you lots of headaches down the road. If we can ever answer any questions about our dogs, or our service, please don't hesitate to call! 

Maggie working a training exercise. Vials containing live bed bugs are placed behind one of the three outlets. You can see in this photo that she has found the scent on the far left outlet. Her alert is to place her nose directly on the outlet and not move, no scratching, no movement, no barking. 

Maggie working a training exercise. Vials containing live bed bugs are placed behind one of the three outlets. You can see in this photo that she has found the scent on the far left outlet. Her alert is to place her nose directly on the outlet and not move, no scratching, no movement, no barking. 



Bedbug lawsuit may produce $2.45 million settlement

Preliminary approval has been given in a $2.45 class action settlement initiated by residents of downtown Des Moines apartments who were bitten by bed bugs.  

"I think this puts landlords on notice that they cannot ignore bedbug issues," said Lipman, who anticipates filing another similar case in Iowa. "If they don't take care of it, if they don't warn consumers, they're going to be held accountable." 

Read the story here.

 

Apartment Owners Association - Trade Show & Seminar

Green Dog Pest Service attended the Apartment Owners Association of California trade show and seminar at the Long Beach Convention Center yesterday, 5/15.  We spoke with many landlords and property managers about their encounters with bed bugs. 

Everyone enjoyed seeing Elton and learning the importance of including twice annual inspections as part of their Integrated Pest Management practices. Many expressed interest in using certified canine teams for those inspections because the dogs make the process quicker and less invasive that visual inspections alone.  

It was alarming to hear how many landlords do their own pest control for their rental properties. Not only is it not legal, it can be dangerous and in the long run, more costly than hiring a pest control professional.  
 

Elton, the coolest Exhibitor at the show.