Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 31, 2004

A nose that ‘knows’ mold – Radar, mold sniffing dog

By Jody Anderson

Move over Felony (the Howard Lake Police drug dog) – and make room for the newest pooch on the block, Radar the Mold Dog.

Radar, who is a lab-rottweiler mix, is employed at Mold Pros, a business owned by John and Chelly Hirsch of Waverly.

John, son of Norris and Janet Hirsch of Waverly, and his wife Chelly Hirsch of Buffalo, are already active business owners in the area.

Radar is one of two certified MoldDog service animals in the state of Minnesota, and the first in Wright County.

There are only 25 certified MoldDogs in the entire United States.

Radar was previously rescued from the Pinellas Humane Society and had 1,000 hours of training under his collar before meeting the Hirsches.

“I fell instantly in love with him,” Chelly Hirsch said.

The Hirsches underwent another 100 intensive training hours with Radar to become certified mold specialists themselves.

Upon certification, Radar accompanied his new owners home.

There are several advantages to using Radar for mold detection.

“Radar can get to places faster than people, detect mold in areas that people can’t reach, and pinpoint areas that may have been missed by other searches,” commented John Hirsch.

“He can find mold the size of a baby’s teardrop in a football field,” he added.

Mold frequently grows in hidden places, behind wall linings, in floors, and behind installations; it is often not visible.

Moisture from leaky pipes or roofs, high humidity, or flooding are ideal for mold growth.

Mold is easily disturbed, with spores becoming airborne, invading the respiratory system.

Exposure to mold is not healthy for anyone, but infants, children, the elderly, and individuals with immune system and prior respiratory conditions are particularly at risk.

The Hirsch name is probably familiar to many, since they engage in real estate, whether it be construction or sales, among other ventures.

The Hirsches own Hirsch Builders, DesMarais Real Estate, and Railroad Express.

The Mold Pro venture was born out of the unique combination of building and real estate challenges that they have encountered on the way.

“Quicker and more accurate detection of toxic mold leads to lower remediation costs for homeowners and insurance agencies,” stated John Hirsch.

“As new homes go up, if proper drying processes are not followed, mold will become a problem,” he added.

Using dogs for detection is not a new science, since government and military agencies have been utilizing them for decades in the detection of explosives, drugs, arms, and missing persons.

Canines are also used to track an arson’s path and identify the perpetrator. They can also pinpoint termites, and are currently training dogs to detect cancer.

Five years ago the rising concern among homeowners about toxic mold inspired Certified Master Trainer Bill Whitsine to work with scientists to train and certify dogs to find hidden mold in infested buildings.

Whitsine, who is the trainer responsible for Radar’s expertise, is owner of the Florida Canine Academy, a world renowned canine training and certification facility.

John and Chelly are very interested in promoting prevention and early detection, since remediation costs are astronomical.

The average cost for mold elimination is around $60,000 today.

These costs could be greatly reduced with early detection.

Mold Pros charge between $550 and $800 for an average 1,000 square foot home, depending on the number of samples and distance traveled.

Samples are sent to a forensic scientist in Oregon for classification.

Although he requires constant practice and yearly re-certification, at the end of the day he gets to go home with John and Chelly Hirsch and their three children and just be a pet.

It seems that this relationship has certainly become mutually beneficial.

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