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The Nose KnowS
By Regan Michelle White

Three-year-old yellow Lab, Quincy sure can smell trouble, especially when it comes in the form of toxic mold. Trained at the Florida Canine Academy in mold detection, she now uses her nose to sniff out toxic mold with her owner Frank Haverkate of Haverkate & Associates in Toronto, Ontario. Frank, Canada’s first Certified Microbial Investigator (CMI) and Quincy, Canada’s first Certified Mold Detection Dog have teamed up to form a dynamic mold-fighting duo.

Haverkate & Associates, an indoor environmental testing and consulting company, has been seeking out the invisible enemy of mold in Ontario businesses and homes for nine years now. Frank acquired Quincy a little over a year ago in a move that has changed the way that he does business forever. Frank explains that, “The main issue with mold investigation is that 80% of mold growth is hidden from view (behind walls, beneath flooring, etc.). In the past we’d do an analysis to determine what percentage of the home had mold issues and then we’d gut the room under pressurized containment to determine the location of the mold spores. Thanks to Quincy, our mold detection is now cheaper, faster and more accurate.” And a lot more fun to boot, we’d bet.

But Quincy’s story begins well before her adoption by Frank. Quincy and her littermate were rescued from the Humane Society of North Pinellas in Florida by Florida Canine Academy owner and Certified Master Trainer, Bill Whitstine. The Academy trains bomb, drug, money, weapons, termite, mold and accelerant detection canine teams. Bill trains dogs of many different breeds and prefers to rescue most of the dogs he trains from the Humane Society since they have proven to be excellent dogs with the energy, enthusiasm, eagerness and drive that it takes to handle the job. It takes 600-800 hours of individual training to completely train a dog to accurately detect mold. The Mold Dogs are specifically trained to alert (sit) on at least 18 different kinds of the most common toxic molds.

While Quincy was trained to use her nose to find mold, Frank Haverkate found Quincy through a Google search. Frank says that, “I ran a Google search and found Bill’s Academy and was intrigued at the idea that dogs were being trained to detect mold. It makes sense, in that they are superior at sniffing out bombs and drugs and training in mold detection follows much in the same manner. I had just never heard of it before.” Frank contacted Bill and before he knew it was on his way to Florida for the portion of his handler’s training. “The dogs are really ready to go and fully trained,” Frank explains, “it’s us handlers that need to know what we’re doing. Primary handlers receive 10 days or so of training in Florida and then the dog and handler are certified as a team.” When it came time to choosing the breed, the choice was obvious: “I’ve had all kinds of dogs before, but have always just loved Labs. I currently have a 12-year-old black Lab named Buzz so after some thought we figured that when seeking out a working dog it would be best to get another Lab to get along with Buzz. They are just so fantastic with kids and they’re just a really easy breed. Particularly in a working environment, they are so easy to work with and take in and out of homes and businesses that you never have to worry.”

When it came time to travel down to Florida and be united with Quincy, Frank arrived to an interesting situation. Frank explains that, “I got there and Bill explained that there was a problem with my dog. I figured ‘Oh, that’s great.’ but it wasn’t what I expected. Bill went on to say that it wasn’t a detection problem but a depression problem. Quincy had come from a family that after having a new baby decided they didn’t have room for Quincy any more. Bill explained that Quincy was handling it very badly and was desperately missing her home life. On that first afternoon with her, while other handlers were beginning their first session of training with their dogs, my mission was to just take Quincy for a walk and bond.” And bond they most certainly did. Frank laughs that, “I snuck her some illegal cookies and we tossed a ball around. It being Florida, she got her nose in a fire ant hill so I had to clean that up and then she got a prickly burr stuck up her paw and I took care of that too. After all that in just 30 minutes we were inseparable.”

Their bond has lasted, if not strengthened over time, as has Quincy’s mold detection training. Quincy trains every single day. If she’s not out actively searching for molds on the job then they’re busy training her. Frank says that, “The mold dogs don’t eat like normal dogs. We make it a training game for her, just as they do at the Academy; she has to do something for her food, in this case, find mold. We hide Petree dishes of different molds around the office or our house and she has to find them before she eats. I feed her out of my hand or out of a small pouch, which is actually healthier for her. Feeding time becomes fun time as well as training time.” Frank keeps a log of her success rate while training with different molds to track her consistency and the numbers are pretty phenomenal. While the dogs are trained on 18 different commonly occurring molds there is a great debate over success rate since mold growth features an overlap of many different kinds of molds. Frank corrects however that studies, and Quincy’s own work, have proven that even when mold dogs haven’t been exposed to a mold before their rate of alert is extremely high. So high that Mold Dog’s success rate ranks in the high 90’s for finding molds. Frank adds that, “the only drawback is that when Quincy alerts to a mold she can’t tell the difference between a little bit of hidden mold or a lot. I’ve never ever had a false alert, however. She’s absolutely never alerted and there hasn’t been some evidence of mold.”

Which is good news for thousands of home and business owners with mold issues. Mold spore growth, if left undetected and untreated can lead to dozens of different health issues including respiratory problems, severe allergies, certain cancers and even death. Perhaps most interestingly and what may make dogs a molds worst enemy is the fact that although invisible molds can be highly toxic to humans, they pose no health threat to the dogs that seek them out. Dogs have the unique ability to purge odors and other contaminants from their olfactory organs (which is really good news considering all they get into) and research has shown that dogs are simply not affected by various particulate matter in the same way that humans are due to this unique purging ability. This special dog attribute combined with their superior sniffing abilities makes them ideal candidates for seeking out toxic fumes as arson dogs, lethal drugs as drug dogs or even, as Bill Whitstine has pioneered, to seek out toxic molds as ‘mold dogs’.

Flirting with danger does require a certain dose of common sense however, as Frank is quick to add. “Mold Dog handlers receive extensive training about when and how to use dogs in building structures. For example, in cases when there is visible mold there is no need for me to use Quincy. I use many different methods of testing mold spores in the air and surrounding area before I even bring Quincy in. If I have to suit up for protection in a certain scenario then Quincy is definitely not coming in. Quincy however does excel at hidden mold issues. When there is evidence of mold Quincy gives a passive alert by sitting and pointing with her nose to the area when I ask her to. The other day we were in an office building doing an investigation. Quincy couldn’t even move a foot along the carpet without alerting. Although the office had recently replaced the carpet, pulling it up revealed that the mold had quickly grown back underneath the new flooring.”

Quincy has not only revolutionized Frank’s company but also a bit of his life. The two are as inseparable as they were the first day they met going from home to the office and back again together all day every day. Frank laughs that, “Quincy is very, very attached which I like a lot. She’s so attached though that to even take a shower I have to shove her out of the washroom.” She’s also found the home life she pined for in Frank, his wife Sherry, their 10-year-old son, Austin and 9-month-old baby, Max. When she’s not working her absolute favorite thing is to chase squirrels. She also has a red Kong toy that she is never without when she goes on walks. Other than that, Frank adds that sleeping is of course very high on her list.

So here’s to our December Lab of the Month who knows how to nose her way to success.

For more information on Haverkate & Associates visit
or for more information on Bill Whitstine and the Florida Canine Academy visit

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