As opioid addiction grows, San Diego parents can turn to drug dogs for help

Posted at 6:36 PM, Nov 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-20 21:36:52-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego is not immune from the drug addiction and opioid crisis that's sweeping the nation. More than 250 people in San Diego County died last year from drug overdoses. Concerned parents can turn to a little known preventative measure to protect their teens: in-home drug and prescription pill detecting canine searches. 


Team 10 spoke to approximately a dozen of the most prominent private canine handlers across the United States. They told us that hiring skilled dogs for private home searches has grown in popularity, but there still isn’t enough awareness about the service because of the stigma. Parents don’t want to admit their children could be abusing drugs. Professional canine handler Troy Morrison with Southern California’s FireNarc Investigations told us, “There’s no word of mouth. Nobody wants to say, ‘Troy brought his dog over and the dog found [hidden drugs] and we got my kid help.’ It’s a taboo subject.”


Morrison and his dog Chewy did a demonstration for Team 10. Tina File of 4S Ranch and her daughter, Kenny, agreed to let us use their home for the demonstration. Kenny has no history of drug use. In about 5 minutes, Chewy detected the pseudo-drugs that Morrison and Kenny hid throughout the home. The pseudo-drugs had the odor of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.


Morrison says Chewy underwent a rigorous training program to become certified in narcotics detection. Chewy can search private homes, schools, businesses and so on. Morrison explains he was compelled to venture into the world of canine narcotics detection because two of his firefighter friends lost their family members to heroin overdose. Morrison believes the service can be a lifesaver, even if it seems extreme.


“I wish I would’ve had [the detection service]. I didn't realize all the places they could hide their drugs until after he passed away and I was cleaning out his room,” says Karin Murphy of Lakeside. Her son Seth died of a heroin overdose when he was 18 years old. She’s since started The Seth Foundation in his name. It’s a resource center for those who are affected by teenage drug addiction.


When we called several handlers around the country, the least expensive residential search fee was about $150.00. The average fee was closer to $300.00. Most certified handlers told Team 10 they’d work with parents to find an affordable compromise.


Team 10 spoke to a handful of well-known teenage addiction specialists in San Diego about whether canine home searches violate trust and boundaries that parents have built with their children. All of the specialists agreed that when it comes to your children and drug use, there’s no invasion of privacy or boundaries in the home. One therapist told us, he’s known of too many teens who’ve died because parents were being too polite.


Morrison and Murphy’s websites are below.