Paranoid parents have a new tool for exposing their children as the drug-addled loonies they are: privately owned drug dogs for hire, here to sniff out your stash.
NPR has the story of Tom Robichaud, who operates one such business in the Boston area. Parents call Robichaud when they think their kids might be using, and he arrives with Ben, a pooch with police-level training, to conduct a search.
A recent operation carried out for an anonymous dad whose daughter had years-long problems with drugs turned up a baggie of mysterious white powder:
The dad sifts through two drawers in the table but finds nothing; Robichaud explains that a scent can linger months after drugs are removed. Then the dad feels around in the chair — a large, upholstered recliner. There is nothing in the cushions, so he looks around the back and pulls open a Velcro flap that covers the chair's mechanics. His hand hits on a plastic baggie.
"What is that?" the dad says as he pulls it out.
"Oh, my God," Robichaud says, as the dad holds up a sandwich bag filled with white powder.
What happens next? Robichaud says he's not legally obligated to go to the police, and in most cases he won't, but if the pooch turns up "a meth lab," he says, or "a big amount of a narcotic," he might decide that he should. Risky!
More nefarious: peeping Toms who call in the dogs on their neighbors. Police aren't allowed to conduct unreasonable search and seizures, but there's a lot less stopping some armchair investigator showing up in your backyard with a german shepherd, demanding to see the goods. You've got a little pot, he calls the cops, and you're arrested based on a search that was conducted without a warrant.
"There's a fundamental principle here that we don't intrude in that way on people's homes," Jay Stanley of the ACLU told NPR. "And I don't think we want to go down the road to allowing open season for neighbors to spy on each other."
So, if you're worried someone around you might be hoarding over a bunch of molly without telling you, should you hire a dog? If you're this person's legal guardian, you have reason to believe they have an actual problem, and you'd rather not involve the police, sure, but proceed with extreme caution. If not, stay away. If the civil liberties argument isn't enough to convince you, take it from an actual cop.
Law enforcement officials have their own concerns. Jim Pasco of the National Fraternal Order of Police worries that a dog handler could inadvertently walk into the middle of an ongoing criminal investigation, putting the whole thing — and possibly lives — at risk.
"We don't seek this kind of assistance," Pasco says. "We believe that some things are best left to police to ensure the best possible result."
[Image via AP]