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Sober-living homes deploy a drug-sniffing dog

Sober-living homes deploy a drug-sniffing dog
Jack, a 2-year-old drug-sniffing dog for Costa Mesa-based Solid Landings Behavioral Health, which operates sober-living homes throughout the city, stands with one of his handlers, Timothy Arrigo. (Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

In what may be a first in the industry, a Costa Mesa-based drug and alcohol recovery company has purchased a drug-sniffing dog to help find illegal contraband on its properties.

Solid Landings Behavioral Health, which operates sober-living homes throughout the city, has been using Jack's keen nose for just over a week. The 2-year-old black Labrador, who was born and raised in Ireland, is a graduate of the Falco K9 Academy in Yorba Linda.

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He is trained to find marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and oxycodone. Like a service dog, he wears a special vest. His blue garment bears his name and Solid Landings' logo.

Program manager Timothy Arrigo, one of Jack's handlers and a Solid Landings employee, said Jack's addition to the company wasn't necessarily because of rampant drug use at its homes.

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"This is not a reaction. This is more of a proactive thing," said Arrigo, who is certified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a narcotics-detection dog handler.

Jack acts primarily as a visual deterrent and can prevent illegal drugs from coming in, Arrigo said.

Solid Landings Behavioral Health has been using Jack, a drug-sniffing black Labrador, at its sober-living homes for just over a week. The Ireland native is a graduate of the Falco K9 Academy in Yorba Linda.
Solid Landings Behavioral Health has been using Jack, a drug-sniffing black Labrador, at its sober-living homes for just over a week. The Ireland native is a graduate of the Falco K9 Academy in Yorba Linda. (Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

When clients enter the homes, they fill out paperwork that permits Jack's entry.

"This dog is here to keep you safe," Arrigo said. "He is not here to instill fear."

Sober Living Network member Paul Dumont, an observer and advocate of the recovery industry, said the presence of drug-sniffing dogs at sober-living homes isn't unheard of — probation and parole agents occasionally bring them in — but it's rare for a company to own one and have it present on a regular basis.

"I don't know the privacy implications or the legality of the waivers," Dumont said. "But I think anything that would promote drug- and alcohol-free housing and help weed out any problems in the homes would be a good thing, if all the residents agree on it."

Jack does not live in a recovery home. Rather, he splits his time between Arrigo and another Solid Landings employee.

When Jack isn't on duty, "he's a totally different dog," Arrigo said.

"It's so weird," he said. "When we take the vest off him, it's play."

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