Alachua company training dogs to detect COVID-19

Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 6:44 PM EST
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ALACHUA, Fla. (WCJB) - Frontline workers may soon be joined by four-legged co-workers.

Pepe Dogs, also known as J & K Canine Academy Inc. in Alachua, currently has four dogs in training to detect COVID-19.

“We always look at the opportunity that we have with dogs when something like this happens ... and this pandemic has affected so many people, so many of my clients, and so many of the families around us that we felt there were something we could possibly do with the dogs,” said founder Jose “Pepe” Peruyero.

The former Gainesville Police K-9 officer got the inspiration for his company Pepe Dogs in 1994 after volunteering at a local animal shelter. He said the sight of over 40 dogs being put down, pushed him to give all dogs-- even those unwanted, a second chance.

Over 80% of the dogs he trains are rescue dogs. He and his team train the dogs to detect anything from skin cancer, to bed bugs, to invasive pythons.

Training can take up to 12 weeks and once they’re done training they’re ready for the front lines.

“Hospitals, schools, libraries ... we’re talking about public transportation, airports, the possibilities are really endless.”

The dogs are being trained to detect the virus in several ways, including in sweat, in the air, and small work spaces. Since the company started they have used the same training system and Peruyero says he is proud of their consistency in accuracy. In some cases reaching 99% with less than 4% false indication rates.

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