Why spaniels could be a property developer’s best friend
Spaniels could sniff out endangered species on building sites, helping property developers avoid delays
Working spaniels can now add a new skill to their CV – helping property developers sniff out potential problems. Great crested newts are a protected species and it is illegal to capture, kill or disturb them without a licence. If their presence is suspected on a renovation or building site then expensive delays take place whilst conservationists track the creatures down and individually remove them by hand. Developers who carry on regardless, destroying the newt’s habitat and eggs, can expect an unlimited fine or even six months in prison.
But when trained spaniel Freya got to work, she sniffed out the newts 88 per cent of the time and most of the her errors were false positives.
Writing in academic journal Plos One, Nicola Jayne Glover from the University of Salford, said: “This pioneering research shows how detection dogs can be a valuable addition to the current toolbox used to locate threatened amphibian species, particularly those using subterranean shelters.”
She also reports that: “Depending on the breed, a dog’s sense of smell is estimated to be 1,000 to 10,000 times better than that of humans… the performance of trained detection dogs in wildlife searches is generally 4–12 times better than that of experienced human surveyors, which in contrast to dogs predominately rely on visual and/or auditory cues. The olfactorial capabilities of detection dogs also allow them to find elusive species in a variety of environments where technological devices to locate them are either unavailable or less efficient.”
Henry Pryor, a property expert, said: “Detection dogs are used to look for Japanese knotweed, a useful and valuable service, but I’m less convinced of the need to search for newts.”
“I’ve never been asked by a buyer if there are newts at a property but there will be some people who would I’m sure take the issue seriously.”
No surprises with spaniels
Owners of working spaniels may not be surprised by the revelations above. Shooting Times contributor Richard Negus and owner of spaniels Mabel and Blyth says: “Mine are adept hedge layers as well as multi-purpose gundogs. Mabel will swim out and pick up a greylag or pink-footed goose but has yet to bring back any amphibious creatures.”
Of course, spaniels are frequently seen sniffing around at airports, checking for bombs and drugs.