NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Council Member Gale A. Brewer, and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Deputy Commissioner Daniel Kass announced today that as part of the City’s ongoing comprehensive effort to combat bed bug infestations in multifamily residential properties HPD has acquired two bedbug sniffing dogs. The two male beagles, Mickey and Nemo, began their careers as HPD Housing Maintenance Code inspectors late last week. The dogs were acquired and many of the associated costs for the first year (i.e. kenneling, equipment, training) were offset using funding provided by the City Council. Following the formal announcement, a demonstration of an inspection was performed by the dogs and an HPD handler at Council Member Brewer’s office at 250 Broadway. HPD and Council Member Brewer are happy to report that no bed bugs were found.
With bed bugs becoming a rising nuisance in New York and municipalities throughout the world, the City has been exploring the latest methods to assist in the discovery of bed bugs, which includes the use of dogs. Current scientific and pest management industry studies indicate that properly trained and handled dogs can detect bed bugs even when they are difficult for humans to find, such as when there are few in number, and before they mature to adults.
“The nation’s largest municipal housing code enforcement operation has been working hard to sniff out bed bug infestations, and our two new team members are literally the perfect fit for the job,” said HPD Commissioner Mathew M. Wambua. “Mickey and Nemo, HPD’s two new bed bug sniffing dogs, will augment our inspection efforts by helping to detect bed bugs even in cases where it would be very difficult for a properly trained inspector to find evidence of an infestation. By bringing these dogs on board we are adding to our existing efforts to educate the public and arm the city with the latest information and tools to combat bed bugs. I thank Speaker Quinn, the City Council, and Department of Health for their ongoing support on this issue and to our shared mission of assisting our City’s tenants.”
“Bed bugs will be hard pressed to evade detection from Mickey, Nemo and the rest of the HPD code enforcement team,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “With support from the Council, HPD’S new bed bug sniffing dogs are another tool that will help identify and resolve bed bug infestations, and rid our city of these pests once and for all.”
Mickey and Nemo are male beagles, ages 1- and 2-years old. As members of HPD’s Division of Code Enforcement they will be available to assist a team of four Code Enforcement inspectors who have been trained to handle the dogs. The handler training included but was not limited to; identifying all stages of bedbugs, search techniques, working with canines and canine care. When a tenant believes their landlord is not being responsive to what they think is a bed bug infestation, they should call 311 to report a complaint to HPD. Tenants will be asked if they would like to have a dog conduct the inspection. While Mickey and Nemo will not be available for every bed bug inspection, all bed bug complaints will receive attention.
Upon entering the complainant’s apartment the Inspector will ask where the bedbugs have been seen. The inspection team (HPD handler and dog) will check those areas first along with an inspection of areas such as beds, sofas, etc that bed bugs are known to commonly inhabit. If the dog finds bed bugs he will alert the Inspector by sitting, indicating the presence of bed bugs. The Inspector will then follow-up with a visual inspection. The Inspector must visually confirm the dog’s finding by observing a live bed bug or bed bug larvae in order to issue a violation. Even if the dog does not signal that it detects a bed bug, the Inspector will still conduct a visual inspection.
“The key in safeguarding the public health is to know the extent of the problem you face and then provide people with tools to be informed and proactive. Rooted in the dedicated efforts of the Bed Bug Advisory Board, today’s launch of HPD’s two bedbug sniffing dogs adds another benchmark in the City’s commitment to getting the bed bug epidemic under control, and providing effective support to identify the problem when it strikes,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer. “For apartment dwellers who live in infested buildings, those who fear they might have brought bugs home from school, a store or the cinema, and all other New Yorkers, Mickey and Nemo will serve as an important resource to inspectors looking for infestations. The well-trained beagles can also ensure that the bed bugs have been effectively eradicated from a building, giving comfort to residents that they can sleep and not worry about being bitten. I thank all of the agency staff members who made the Bed Bug Advisory Board successful, and I appreciate the funding that Speaker Quinn allocated to support the efforts of the agencies to deal with the bed bug problem.”
“Bed bugs can often hide in places that are difficult for people to detect,” said Daniel Kass, deputy commissioner for Environmental Health at DOHMH. “Adding these dogs to the City’s inspectional force will help identify the locations of infestations to provide property owners with direction on where bed bugs are and how to respond. While dogs can be helpful, there is no substitute for well-trained pest control professionals who can safely and effectively eliminate bed bugs. To rid their properties of bed bugs, owners, tenants and building managers need to make sure they choose and supervise licensed and well-qualified pest control firms that practice integrated pest management, a set of techniques that involves more than just applying pesticides.”
“Bed bugs are a growing problem in New York City,” said Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo Chair of the Council’s Health Committee. “Thanks to the leadership of Speaker Quinn and the Council, we have come up with comprehensive solutions to combat the bed bug epidemic. Today’s announcement, launching the use of bed bug sniffing dogs, will serve as a valuable resource in our fight against bed bugs.”
Earlier this year HPD and DOHMH collaborated to create a comprehensive new model for responding to bed bug complaints in residential properties. If a violation for bed bugs is issued, the new protocols require that:
- Owners must now inspect, and if necessary treat units adjacent to, above and below any unit where bed bugs are found.
- Owners must use a licensed pest control professional to treat the infestation, and employ a variety of treatment strategies rather than depending on chemical pesticides alone
- Where bed bugs persist, or occur in multiple apartments in the same building, the Health Department will require property owners take several additional pest removal steps (i.e., notify tenants that bed bugs have been identified in the building, develop and distribute a building-wide Pest Management Plan to all tenants).
- To verify that bed bug infestations have been properly treated and conditions that contribute to infestation have been addressed, owners who are repeat offenders must have their licensed exterminator complete an Affidavit of Correction of Pest Infestation.
- Owners, who fail to provide these documents in a timely way to the Health Department, will be issued a Notice of Violation and will be required to appear at a hearing before the City’s Environmental Control Board where fines may be issued and non-compliant landlords may end up with a lien on their property, which was not possible before.
HPD formally issued a notice of Request for Information (RFI) on November 22, 2010 seeking interested parties who could provide to the Agency, two male bedbugs detection dogs, one to two years old for the purpose of assisting Housing Inspectors in the performance of bedbugs related inspections, and the New York K-9 Detection Academy was ultimately chosen.
Mickey and Nemo were initially trained at the Iron Heart Training Center in Shawnee, Kansas, a National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association (NESDCA) accredited facility, where they completed the six-month bed bug training course on finding live bed bugs and their viable eggs. They arrived in New York City in August of this year, and have continued on-going bed bug detection training. They were subsequently joined by four HPD inspectors from the Division of Code Enforcement who have recently completed the Handler training. Each dog will be assigned to a team of two inspectors, with alternating routes.
In addition to the acquisition of the bed bug sniffing dogs, the City of New York’s on-going collaborative bed bug control efforts have included a number of significant initiatives. In 2010 the City convened the New York City Bed Bug Advisory Board, in which the City Council, HPD, and DOHMH served as advisors. The Board found that the lack of educational materials and dissemination of inconsistent information were impeding safe and effective ways to prevent and control bed bugs. In March 2011 Speaker Quinn, DOHMH, and HPD unveiled a new web-based bed bug tool (www.nyc.gov/bedbugs) which provides New Yorkers with accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date information on how to recognize bed bugs, steps to prevent infestation, how to safely eliminate bed bugs from the home, and tips on selecting and working with a pest control professional. The City also provided additional training for HPD inspectors on how to identify bed bugs, and as mentioned earlier, HPD and DOHMH created new protocols for bed bug violations.
Although not an insect that spreads disease, left untreated, bed bugs can spread quickly in multi-family housing. Both Housing and Health Codes require that property owners address infestations promptly. If tenants think they have an infestation they should first contact their landlord to inform him/her of the problem. If the landlord is unresponsive tenants should call 311 to report the problem to HPD.
About The New York City Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)
HPD is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers through education, outreach, loan and development programs and enforcement of housing quality standards. It is responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the construction or preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014. Since the plan’s inception, a total of more than 125,300 affordable homes have been created or preserved by HPD and the NYC Housing Development Corporation. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/hpd