Meet the drug-sniffing dog that parents hire to snoop on their kids

Meet the drug-sniffing dog that parents hire to snoop on their kids

VicesMay 23, 2018 By Reilly Capps

If Chris Pelle comes knocking on your door, teens with a drug stash might want to start sweating profusely.

Pelle brings Eros, 2-year-old German Shepherd with a sweet disposition but a gnarly mission — to sniff out any illicit substances the kid might have hidden in his underwear drawer.

Pelle, head of Complete Canine Training in northern Colorado, trains police dogs. Mostly, his dogs are used by cops. But he's starting a business so parents can call the drug dogs on their kid, and search their rooms, cars or backpacks.

"If Johnny's smoking dope in middle school, if you've got a kid who has substantial behavior change and it's not for the better, I'd want to find out why that is," Pelle said. "I'm not here to judge, I'm not here to do anything but help people out."

Complete Canine charges $250 for a home and vehicle search and is one of a few private drug-sniffing companies throughout the county dogging their kids.

In Kentucky, Last Chance K9 services offers the Worried Parent Program — $99 for a drug sweep.  

JJ Siebrasse, of Proven Dog Training in New Mexico, said he doesn't have an official business, but he will search friends' houses for the kids' drugs. "As a minor they get no expectation of privacy," Siebrasse said. He's found meth and marijuana hidden in kids rooms.

Most drug dogs can smell five scents: cocaine, meth, opioids, ecstasy and marijuana.

Rooster Magazine watched Eros show off his skills recently in a parking lot in Northern Colorado. Pelle hid a package that smelled like meth around parked cars. Eros wagged his way around the edges. When he smelled the meth, he sat down and stopped sniffing. Pelle rewarded him with a tossed tennis ball. The dog was fairly accurate — though he did having a couple false positives.

Pelle always pets Eros after every successful snoop. The dog loves it. 

[Chris Pelle and his drug-sniffing dog, Eros. //photo Reilly Capps]

Though Pelle is new to this line of work — and he's the first we've heard about in Colorado — a half-dozen parents have employed his help already. Only twice did Eros alert him to possible drugs. Pelle didn't rifle through each drawer and cabinet, just left sticky notes on various pieces of furniture that told the parents where they might want to look.  

This is happening against a backdrop of one the biggest drug crises the country has seen, with 60,000 people dying of overdoses every year. Parents are scared their kids will be next.

Still: isn't that snooped-on teen going to be super-pissed?

"Teenagers will only just become more secretive if they feel like they’re being spied on," Lawrence Balter, a professor of applied psychology at New York University and the author of multiple books about parenting, told The Washington Post. "If parents act like police, I think kids just become more deceptive and sneaky.”

"It really could lead to trust issues and it could lead to difficulties having a positive relationship with your child," a New York therapist name Liz Morrison told Nightline.

The drug-handlers said they're doing the kid a favor by heading off trouble, so cops don't have to be called, so lives won't be ruined.

"We are not law enforcement, and we can fix the issue before going to the legal system," Michael Davis, owner of Last Chance, also told Nightline.

Pelle said friends’ lives have been derailed by drugs, losing a D1 football scholarship or getting caught on heroin. So searching kids' rooms, he said, is his way of giving back.

But these drug dogs aren’t always used to confiscate drugs — sometimes, they recover lost stashes. A friend of Siebrasse's in Colorado, where weed is legal, told him that they used to have an eighth of marijuana, but had misplaced it. Siebrasse's drug dog saved the day and sniffed it out.

[cover photo Reilly Capps for Rooster Magazine]