HUBBARDSTON — The bed bug detecting business is definitely niche in the north central Massachusetts region. And what started as an accident became a passion for Tom and Nina Welch.
Helping to support a local business, the North Central Massachusetts Development Corp. (NCMDC), the economic development arm of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, recently approved a $15,000 loan to Pawsitive Identity K9 Services, a Welches-owned bed bug detection business in Hubbardston. The company provides dogs certified and trained to detect bed bugs in homes, offices, hospitals, theaters, vehicles and more.
The Pawsitive Identity K9 service works directly with hotels and apartment complexes to identify bedbugs and works with pest control companies for sanitation. The NCMDC is supporting the purchase, certification and training of a new dog, Charlie.
Tom Welch was a K9 officer for 21 years with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department, where he trained and worked with dogs. When he retired, a local pest control company recruited him to work with the company’s bed bug detection dog.
At the start of the pandemic, the company eliminated the bed bug detection part of the business, but offered Welch the pet dog, Kirby. Driven by a love of animals and an entrepreneurial spirit, Welch founded Pawsitive Identity K9 Services.
“There was virtually no startup overhead since Kirby was still young enough to continue working and our office space is in our house. We work with several pest control companies who prefer using canines to detect bedbugs because there is more accuracy and less margin for error than human inspection,” Welch said.
A dog’s percentage of accuracy in detecting bed bugs is based on daily training, working in real-life scenarios, running numerous blind caches as well as double-blind caches ( a blind hide is when someone other than the handler hides a vial containing bed bugs for the dog to find).
For dogs to be trained and certified, Welch said finding the right trainer and canine candidate is crucial because “their personality and characteristics play a big part in finding a dog that can do the job.” . Dogs that have a great desire to play and eat, that are not afraid of their environment and people, are strongly preferred for work.
“This job is a game for them, they love what they do because they get rewarded every time they find bed bugs, so they are constantly looking for that reward. In the case of our dogs, it’s a food reward,” Welch said.
The road to grooming her new bug-sniffing dog, Charlie, took months. After successfully battling canine parvovirus, Charlie was placed in a shelter where a trainer felt he would be an ideal candidate to sniff out bed bugs. After two months of training, Charlie was picked up from Colorado by Tom and Nina Welch.
“He fit right in with the family and we haven’t looked back. He’s the sweetest pup and already knows his job responsibilities,” Welch said.
The cost of dog training ranges from $7,000 to $13,000, Welch said. The certification, which consists of a three-day training, costs around $1,100. Certification is administered by the National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Association. To pass the test, the dog must be able to detect live bed bugs and viable eggs.
“We both love dogs so this is a perfect way to have the best of both worlds. Our dogs are just like you and me, they come home after a long day at work and can relax together without restriction in our house,” Welch said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the start of the business. However, with the recent relaxation of local health guidelines, business is picking up.
“When we go to work, we follow all COVID guidelines and respect our customers’ wishes,” Welch said.
In addition to working with large companies, Pawsitive Identity K9 Services also inspects private homes. The Welches can be reached at 978-257-2676 or [email protected]
“With financial assistance and support from the North Central Massachusetts Development Corp., we have realized a dream of opening our own business and providing an important service to our local community,” Welch said in a press release. .