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September 2, 2006

Mold Dogs


Fran Daniel wrote about them in an August 16, 2006 story that appeared in the Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal.

Here's the article.

    A Nose Knows: Tux and his partner track down mold in the Triad's walls and floors

    Tux [above — the dog] uses a sensitive tool to inspect houses and other buildings - his nose.

    Tux, a 2-year-old German shepherd-hound mix, and John Salmon [above — the human], his handler, make up the team of K-9 Mold Investigations Inc. in Greensboro. K-9 Mold, Salmon's newly formed business, offers residential and commercial mold inspections and testing across the Triad.

    Tux, originally a stray who was adopted from the Humane Society of Pinellas in Clearwater, Fla., has had 1,000 hours of training at the Florida Canine Academy in Safety Harbor, Fla. He is trained to detect 18 types of mold and their subspecies.

    "We do a quarterly recertification," Salmon said. "Then I do training every day, between 30 minutes to an hour."

    Mold dogs have been used in Europe for years, but only more recently in the United States.

    This trend in the inspection industry is big in Florida and Texas, Salmon said.

    People are no doubt more familiar with dogs that sniff out bombs, drugs and arson.

    But the Florida Canine Academy teaches dogs to detect practically anything, including bed bugs, termites and indigo snakes, said Bill Whitstine, the owner of the academy.

    Whitstine said that there are mold-dog skeptics in the science community, but research has shown that dogs are capable of detecting mold.

    Armed with his own K-9 Mold badge and, of course, his nose, Tux recently sniffed for possible mold at a house in Winston-Salem.

    "Seek," Salmon said, as Tux moved along the walls and floors of the house.

    No mold in the living room. Nothing in the dining room. And nothing in the kitchen, except for a whiff of dog food, which Tux obediently left undisturbed.

    But when the canine-mold sniffer went into a bathroom, he sat and barked excitedly.

    "Show me, boy," Salmon said. "Where is it, boy?"

    Tux turned in the direction of the floor near a bathtub and tried to point his nose there.

    Salmon reached in his vest pocket and handed Tux a dog treat. He said that if he pulled up the tile on the floor, he would probably find mold underneath.

    In the basement, Tux also barked and pointed at a plastic box filled with clothes that was sitting on the floor under a cardboard box.

    Salmon said that Tux is a pretty big part of his business.

    "If there's a large wall that's infested with mold, an infestation, I can work him to get an estimate of how big the mold is," he said.

    But Tux is just one of the tools that Salmon uses in his mold investigations. He also uses thermal cameras, moisture meters and other equipment.

    When he completes his investigations, the owners of properties can decide if they want to go further. If they want test samples done, Salmon will send them to a lab to determine the type of mold, health hazards and quantities.

    A Gulf War veteran, Salmon has 12 years of experience in fire service. He is a volunteer station captain at Fire District 13 Inc. in northwestern Guilford County, but left the fire-service profession as a career after an injury in 2002.

    Six months ago, while Salmon was going through his transition from working as a firefighter to a less physically demanding career, he decided he wanted to work with a dog. "I love dogs, and I would not have been in the mold business if it didn't give me a chance to be with a dog," he said.

    Originally, he considered private drug and bomb dogs. He even researched arson dogs who work for insurance companies.

    But, he said, "the market was either too full or there wasn't enough work."

    Then he thought of the growing use of dogs to help with mold inspections and decided to use a dog trained at the Florida Canine Academy. He also received his mold-inspector certification from the National Association of Mold Professionals.

    Salmon said he knows he's taking a risk, but he has researched the market and found that there are not a lot of businesses in the Triad that focus on just mold inspections.



You can find John Salmon's K-9 Mold Investigations here.

September 2, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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