Drug-Sniffing Canine Helps Homeless Shelters Fight Opioid Crisis

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In Pennsylvania, as the temperatures drop, the homeless shelter numbers increase dramatically. Hope Rescue Mission in Reading, Pennsylvania, recognized that with that being the case, they needed to look at how to handle the illegal drug problem that sometimes happens within the shelter’s walls.

While the mission volunteers know calling the police is always an option, they were looking for a different way to help the homeless residents to follow the rules and stay out of the prison system. And that’s where Fred Nell and his dog Sadie come in.

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Sadie is trained to sniff out drugs, and is used by many citizens and groups for her abilities. By randomly drug testing shelter residents’ space, Sadie has sent a message that drugs won’t be tolerated. Steve Olivio is the director of the Code Blue winter shelter and he says that using Sadie to sniff drugs out in the shelter, he was able to dramatically reduce the number of illegal substances that are now found on the premises.

Olivio says that Sadie’s nose is a deterrent to the residents, who don’t know when she’ll take another sweep, and so they stay cleaner. One resident, an 18-year-old drug user, told Nell that they didn’t initially like Sadie, and thought that the dog as out to get the teen. But now the resident has come to see Sadie as a way to help them get through their recovery.

Nell believes using Sadie for drug use deterrence is a first of it’s kind in his area, but he’s no stranger to dog-based businesses. In addition to Drug Search Team and Next Day Outreach with Sadie, he also has a dog-waste removal company that his former dog Teddy inspired.

When Teddy died, Sadie, a Lab/German Shepherd mix rescue stepped into his life, and relatively soon after, Nell knew she had a special sniffer. She helps at the rescue missions, drug rehab centers and even private homes. Nell averages about 25 to 30 searches a month and he is actually looking into bringing a new dog on to help Sadie out.

In Pennsylvania, there is no regulation or training for private citizens who have drug-sniffing dogs, though Tom Gross, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, says that most citizens would prefer some standard of training being met.

But a private citizen would have a difficult time training a drug-sniffing dog since he/she can’t have drugs on their person (you know, because it’s illegal). However, they can use sabs that have drug smells. Nell and Sadie went the extra mile and were certified as K-9 trainers from the LaFollette K-9 Training Center in Missouri.

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Nell says that his service starts at a minimum of $150 a search for businesses, but he negotiates the cost with those truly looking to break opioid habits. He knows it’s important and Sadie’s nose is a gift to be shared with the community.

The idea is to think of Sadie as a search and rescue dog – she finds people who need rescuing with recovery.

[Lebanon Daily News]