Drug-sniffing dogs are being used by Vancouver landlords to keep buildings free of narcotics

Some Vancouver property managers are hiring private companies with drug-sniffing dogs to sweep the public spaces of residential buildings in an effort to prevent grow-ops, meth labs and drug trafficking.

Concerns are being raised about tenant privacy but police in the city support the practice

The Vancouver-based company, Canadian K9, says more stratas and landlords have been requesting its drug-sniffing dog service. (Canadian K9)

The CEO of LandlordBC is concerned over what appears to be an increase in property managers using drug-sniffing dogs in their buildings. 

"Is this a tool that in any way infringes on tenant privacy? There's something about it that raises a red flag for us," said David Hutniak.

"It may be totally legitimate and they may have complete legal grounds to do it, but from our perspective the landlord giving notice, going in and looking at their units on a regular basis and property managing them [is preferable]."

Outside multiple downtown Vancouver apartments, there are permanent signs warning the public that drug-sniffing dogs may be on site at any time. 

Margrett Donley, owner of Canadian K9, started her business in 1997. She works with ports, cruise ships and other large businesses where drug trafficking or explosives can be a concern.

She says more and more property management companies are also using her service. The highly trained drug-sniffing dogs sweep the public spaces of residential buildings in an effort to prevent grow-ops, meth labs and drug trafficking.

During building sweeps the dogs are only permitted in public spaces. (Canadian K9)

"Stratas are calling us to request this service as well," she said. "That may have something to do with Airbnb, that may have something to do with rental units in buildings, or just the owners themselves, but mostly it's a rental issue."

Donley says if her dogs pick up a scent — the building manager will be informed.

"When someone calls us out there's usually a reason for it so they will find anything that might be there," she said.

"[Managers] are trying to keep all the tenants safe in the building lest something happens in one suite."

Police applaud the practice

Vancouver police say as long as the dogs stay in public spaces — and do not infringe upon the rights of homeowners or renters — they see no issue.

"The use of provincially licensed security drug detection dogs in public areas on private property can be beneficial in deterrence alone," said Sgt. Jason Robillard in a statement. 

"In addition, there are added safety benefits in the use of the dog by locating discarded drugs that have been left behind that could fall in the hands of a small child or ingested by a pet."

Huntiak, who says he wasn't aware of any substantial increase to the practice, believes illicit drug production takes place more often in rented homes than apartments.

He said that just because it's legal, it may not create a helpful dynamic. 

"The historical way that it's done ... to us provides greater comfort around ensuring that the relationship with their tenant is respected and their privacy is protected."

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