It’s a tough situation to be in — a parent who is concerned that their child may have a drug problem, but also afraid to call for help because they don’t want their child to go to jail.
During his seven-year career as a law enforcement officer, Sean Pendleton said he heard such stories from families grappling with drug abuse time and time again.
As a former law enforcement officer, Pendleton said he understands and respects officers’ obligation to take legal action when they discover drugs in a family’s home.
But Pendleton said he also sympathizes with families’ fears of having their loved ones sent away because of drug offenses. That’s why he founded Preventative K9 Solutions, a private, non law-enforcement company that uses trained dogs to search for drugs in businesses and private homes across Indiana.
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“We’re a business that wants to offer help another way,” Pendleton said.
Although he was never a K9 narcotics officer, Pendleton said he was involved with training of police drug dogs during his time in law enforcement. With that experience in hand, he went on to found not just one, but two dog-related businesses: Preventative K9 solutions and Guardian K9, a dog training, obedience and care company.
Through his work with Guardian K9, Pendleton said he takes what he calls “green dogs” and trains them to search for drugs in various situations.
That’s how he trained his dogs, Bacchus and Endo, to join the Preventative K9 Solutions fleet.
He also recruited the services of Ruckus, a former K9 police dog who can no longer perform his duties at a law enforcement level, but can handle the workload at Preventative K9 Solutions, said Link Brandon, Ruckus’ handler.
The three dogs are trained to detect five different substances — marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and MDMA, better known as ecstasy.
The cornerstone of Preventative K9 Solutions’ operational model is discretion, so Pendleton said he often encourages his clients to make sure the person they suspect as having a drug problem is not home at the time of the search.
Similarly, when he and his team arrive at a search location, such as a home or business, Pendleton said their vehicles do not have the company logo or anything else emblazoned on them that might alert neighbors to the possible presence of drugs in a home.
While marijuana and heroin are the most common drugs that the three dogs find, meth also is a widely used substance, mirroring drug abuse trends across the country, Pendleton said.
If a dog alerts on a substance in a business, then Preventative K9 Solutions also offers on-the-spot, urine-based drug screenings. Once the searches and screenings have concluded, Pendleton said his company leaves it up to businesses to decide how to deal with employees who test positive for drug use.
But when he is dealing with families who learn that their loved ones are abusing drugs, Pendleton said he takes the process further by working with families to determine their next steps.
That’s where his wife, Jessica Pendleton, comes in.
As DARE officer for the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, Pendleton has connections with various agencies around Columbus and across the state that can provide support and care to families dealing with drug addictions.
If a dog positively alerts to the presence of drugs in a home, the DARE officer can help families find the resources they need to move forward in the process of helping their loved one get clean.
Link Brandon, for example, said he has heard of situations where a family was initially referred to services at Columbus Regional Hospital to deal with drug abuse issues.
It is often a bittersweet moment for the staff of Preventative K9 Solutions when a dog alerts on the presence of drugs in a home, Brandon said.
On one hand they are proud of their animals for successfully doing their jobs, but on the other hand they are concerned about parents’ state of mind as they try to work through the implications of a drug addiction in their family.
Many family members, especially parents, may even go so far as to feel remorse for asking for a drug search as the reality of their child’s drug addiction begins to set in, Pendleton said.
“They’ll say, ‘What did I just do?’” he said.
Rather than conducting drug searches and then promptly leaving, Pendleton said he and his team will spend extra time with families to help them work through their emotions and to talk them through their next steps.
If necessary, Pendleton said he will continue to follow up with families even after they have been connected with community resources to ensure that they are getting the help they needed.
Preventative K9 Solutions also take their services to schools, where the dogs can demonstrate their searching abilities and the team can explain the potential consequences of getting involved with drugs.
The dogs are friendly and sociable, Brandon said, which makes the school presentations more relatable and less intimidating for the students.
While most law enforcement agencies take a reactive approach to drug searches and addictions, Pendleton said the goal is for his company to provide a proactive step for families to take to stop drug abuse before it gets worse.
“They want us to confirm or dispel their worst fears,” he said.
Preventative K9 Solutions
- Location: 2346 N. 200 W., Columbus
- Phone: 812-342-2814
- Online: pk9solutions.com
- Hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday
- Services: Consultations, residential, school, commercial/industrial drug sniffs, on-site drug screenings