A new company based in St. John's that offers private sniffer dog services is hoping to tap into demand from the private sector.

North Atlantic K-9 was opened in March by owner Justin Daniels, using three of his trained sniffer dogs.

The German Shepherds can sniff out illegal drugs, explosives, and bedbugs.

"I guess like most dog lovers, it all starts out with a passion for the animals," Daniels said.

Daniels was a dog breeder for 15 years, and had a background in health and safety. He decided to combine the two and open his own business. 

"It's health and safety because it's drug awareness, it's drug prevention, safety on site. It falls under the safety protocols for most businesses... and with the dogs, it was a natural marriage."  

Sniffing out an opportunity

In the last few years, Daniels became a certified sniffer dog handler and trained his own dogs.

Sniffer dogs are increasingly used to enforce zero-tolerance drug policies in private business, especially within the oil and gas and mining industries.

Daniels said illegal drugs cut into productivity and cause workplace accidents. 

"Drugs are a problem throughout the labour force in general, and anywhere that an employer might think that there's a concern then there's an opportunity to utilize a dog," he said.

"Government agencies that are out there, police forces and so on, don't have the mandate or the time and resources mostly to be able to provide what the private sector needs because they're dealing with their own workloads."

Daniels said it is an expensive venture for private businesses to get sniffer dogs to come to Newfoundland and Labrador for inspections. 

"We're here in St. John's. If it's someone within the region we can turn out within a few hours... whereas if you're looking at someone from the mainland, there are logistical issues there."

Daniels' dogs have already sniffed out bed bugs — a growing problem in St. John's — but he is trying to get his first contract for his dogs' drug sniffing abilities. 

"We do have several now that are very aggressively looking to put a program in place, because usually it's not a one-off thing. These organizations are looking for someone to come in and set up a regular frequent and infrequent schedule."