After learning prescription drug and heroin use rose significantly in the last five years in San Diego County, former firefighter and professional K9 handler Troy Morrison decided to take action.
He and his dog, Chewy, are making their services available to parents in Southern and Central California.
Chewy is trained to alert Morrison when he smells narcotics, specifically meth and marijuana. He can also detect oxycodone, cocaine, Adderall and Spice.
“A lot of parents are in denial, and once Chewy finds something it kind of hits them flat square in the face and they realize they have to deal with a problem,” Morrison said.
In the latest San Diego County Rx Abuse Reporter Card, “Heroin abuse is growing. Heroin seizures and treatment admissions have increased consistently in the last five years. The misuse of painkillers may contribute to this trend, as users switch to heroin after painkillers becomes harder to find or pay for.”
NBC 7 spoke to a father identified only as “Joe.” His daughter got out of rehab for her Adderall and alcohol addictions on Tuesday. While she was away for the program, he had Morrison and Chewy check her room.
“She lost her job, could not manage to tell the truth anymore and I saw her health and my daughter deteriorate where I knew she was going to die,” he said.
“Joe” said he stripped down her room himself and didn’t find anything. After Chew went through it, they found traces of drugs and alcohol hidden under the mattress, in the closet and one in a shoe container under the bed.
“Joe” admits calling someone like Morrison to do this isn’t something any parent wants to do.
“Some point of time your daughter disappears and all you're talking to is an addict. You're talking to a drug, and that drug does not care. It has no problem lying to do 100% of the time,” he told NBC 7.
When we asked Morrison if his method could create more problems down the line, he said he warns parents of possible Fourth Amendment issues. However, in his opinion, “I’d rather be in court arguing against my child in a Fourth Amendment case than burying my child.”
NBC 7 reached out to Scripps psychologist Dr. George Pratt. He said if he had a daughter in that situation, he would do the same thing.
“Sometimes they are so impaired and clueless to what to do and they're high, you have to do something. I say do what is necessary to preserve your child's life,” he said.
To learn more about Chewy, visit his handler's website.