COLUMBUS, Ind - As a former police officer, Sean Pendleton has seen the steady increase in drug abuse and addiction in central Indiana.
“As a police officer, I’ve heard ‘can you come search my kid’s room, or can you get a drug dog here to search my child’s room,’” Pendleton said.
That’s why he started his company called “Preventative K9 Solutions,” which will come to a home or business to search for illegal drugs without involving law enforcement.
“When law enforcement finds narcotics on someone or something, they’re obligated to make an arrest,” Pendleton said. “Why couldn’t we use a drug detection dog in the private sector to help parents take that step forward and bring realization to their loved one about where this path could lead if they continue down it?”
Pendleton’s business model is one of privatizing the war on drugs by serving as an alternative to calling police. Most of his business is contract-based, scheduling monthly searches at businesses to make sure their facilities and employees are clean.
But the company also works with families who suspect a loved-one may be using drugs.
“We’re just another avenue for a parent to head down to try to find some sort of relief in that situation,” Pendleton said.
When a client schedules a search with “Preventative K9 Solutions,” the company brings one of its American Working Dog Association certified dogs to search a property. If a dog “alerts” in a particular area, Pendleton tells the business or homeowner the dog has “hit” on a particular spot. Then it’s up to the business or homeowner to decide what to do next.
“We let them conduct their search of that, we don’t get involved past that point in regards of locating narcotics,” Pendleton said.
Allowing the client to physically locate and handle the drugs means Pendleton is never in possession of it. As a private company, he says he is not obligated to take any action like calling police.
But he will take further action if the client asks him to. “Preventative K9 Solutions” will also perform on-the-spot drug screenings of individuals, and they work to put clients in contact with drug treatment and counseling services.
“And a parent is just trying to figure out some way to help their child see the light,” Pendleton said. “Figure out that this isn’t the way to go, this isn’t the path.”
The concept of the private company is new enough to central Indiana that many in law enforcement don’t quite know what to think of it yet.
Indiana State Police Captain Dave Bursten urges citizens to be aware of the risk of possessing any illegal drugs that may be found. But he also sees potential for the company as an alternative method to breaking the cycle of drug addiction.
“From the perspective of this service being offered to parents of adolescents, I would say any legal opportunity to intervene in an adolescent’s life to prevent or end dependence on of an illegal substance is worthwhile,” Bursten said in an email. “Better for the parents to intervene proactively than for the addiction to continue and result in future criminal acts to support the drug habit, or worse, the loss of life of the addict or another innocent party.”
“I don’t have a problem with it,” said Greenwood Assistant Police Chief, Matt Fillenwarth.
As a former narcotics officer, Fillenwarth has seen the devastating effects drug addiction can have on families. While he would not condone the illegal possession of any banned substances, he also sees potential benefit to offering alternative action.
“I don’t necessarily think that bringing your child into the juvenile justice system or the criminal justice system is always a good thing for them,” Fillenwarth said.
Since starting “Preventative K9 Solutions” in January 2015, Pendleton says most of his business is based on monthly searches with other companies that contract his services. But he has also worked with a handful of families, and hopes to do more of that in the future.