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Dogs being used to tackle Japanese knotweed

Dogs are being used to detect Japanese knotweed for Environet UK, a specialist in getting rid of the plant.

The animals can cover a site in minutes, staying completely still if they detect the plant, even if the knotweed rhizome is in small quantities.

The dogs being used are two one-year-old Fox Red Labrador Retrievers, who were trained by RFA Security, who provide security and detection dogs for various purposes including finding explosives, narcotics and even bedbugs.

The high accuracy rate of its dog detection surveys has prompted Environet to offer a free 5-year insurance-backed guarantee to owners of residential property where knotweed is not detected.

Nic Seal, founder and managing director of Environet said, “Japanese knotweed is a growing problem for homeowners in the UK and misrepresentation cases are on the rise, where sellers have answered dishonestly about whether their property is affected or deliberately concealed the plant.

“It’s not uncommon for knotweed to be cut back prior to a survey and I’ve even seen cases where the seller has placed a membrane horizontally in the ground over a knotweed infestation and laid a lawn or pathway over the top.

“An Environet dog detection survey is the only way to say with high certainty that a property or site is clear of knotweed, offering peace of mind to buyers that there will be no nasty surprises further down the line.”

Sellers are required by law to declare if their property is affected by Japanese knotweed on the Law Society’s TA6 form, completed as a standard part of the conveyancing process.

Unless they are absolutely certain that there is no knotweed (including below ground rhizome) on their property or within 3 metres of the boundary, the guidance recommends that sellers respond “Not known” in order to protect themselves from future legal action if knotweed is subsequently discovered.

This places the onus on the buyer to carry out their own checks, which is where the detection dogs can help by surveying the property for any trace of knotweed, including where it has been deliberately concealed.

Described by the Environment Agency as “indisputably the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant”, knotweed can cause extensive damage to property, breaking through cracks in mortar, brickwork, joints in concrete, drains, sewers, driveways and even the cavity walls of our homes.

Dog detection surveys will also be useful to sellers of property in locations badly affected by knotweed, who may wish to reassure potential buyers from the outset that the plant is not present.

Environet’s live Japanese knotweed heatmap allows people to enter a postcode to discover the number of infestations within a 4km radius, with the worst affected areas highlighted in yellow or red.

Jason Collins, operations manager at RFA Security, said: “Highly trained detection dogs have a long history of working with the police and security services to find drugs and weapons, but increasingly they’re also taking on exciting new roles such as in the health and environmental sectors.

“Now, for the first time in the UK, dogs will be on the front line in the battle against Japanese knotweed, helping protect homeowners as well as our fragile native ecosystems.”