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Man's best friend used in fight against bed bugs

PHOENIX -- They say dogs are man's best friend, and here's one more reason they are: They may help get rid of bed bugs.

Exterminators all over the country are using trained dogs to search for the pesky little critters. The dogs use their snout to smell the bugs' scent and then point them out to pest control employees. They are being used in homes, hotel rooms and other places.

Phoenix-based Burns Exterminating starting using dogs in 2009 and now have 13 on the job.

"Dogs are trained in government facilities to sniff out drugs, bombs, and things like that. We train ours to sniff out bed bugs," said Sage Garvey, director of technical operations.

All of the dogs Burns uses were rescued from animal shelters. They are "on call" 24 hours a day and walk about 15 miles a day looking for bugs. Once a dog has detected them in a room, an exterminator then uses his chemicals and equipment to get rid of the pests. He said that the dogs are well fed and cared for and are checked out by a veterinarian at least once a month.

Garvey said that it's more about a dog's snout -- not its breed -- that make it a good bed bug dog.

"You need a dog that uses its snout to find different things," said Garvey. "We're looking for dogs that constantly have their nose on the floor or constantly sniffing the air and trying to figure out what's going on."

He said that dogs have a much keener sense of smell than humans.

"For example, when we smell a pepperoni pizza, we smell the whole thing. When they smell a pepperoni pizza, they smell the sauce, the bread and the pepperoni," Garvey said. "They're really just tuned in. It's a hunting instinct that's in them from birth."

There is some debate on how well the dogs work at sniffing out bed bugs. While Garvey insisted that his dogs are 97 percent effective, a 2011 Rutgers University study puts that dogs only effectively find bed bugs about 43 percent of the time.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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