NEW YORK, N.Y. - If any heroes have emerged in the bedbug epidemic sweeping households, movie theaters, retailers, schools, offices, you-name-it nationwide, it is surely bedbug-sniffing dogs.
Cute, diligent and armed with highly sophisticated detection tools — their noses — these dogs are fast becoming the American equivalent of the St. Bernard rescuing the snowbound in the Alps. Commercials vaunt bedbug-sniffing dogs’ prowess and purport up to 98 percent accuracy. In New York, a bedbug-sniffing beagle named Roscoe has become so well known — he has a Facebook page and now an iPhone app — that fellow beagles often are mistaken for him on the street.
But as the number of reported infestations rises and the demand for the dogs soars, complaints from people who say dogs have inaccurately detected bedbugs are also climbing. And in the bedbug industry, where some dog trainers and sellers have back orders until spring despite the dogs’ $11,000 price tag, there are fears that a rise in so-called false positives by dogs will harm their credibility and business.