Did You Know About… Agriculture Detector Dogs?

Image from the Don't Pack a Pest campaign, including a beagle.Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam officially launched the Travelers “Don’t Pack a Pest” Outreach Campaign on July 8th at Miami International Airport.

The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness among travelers of the risks associated with the introduction of harmful pests and diseases. This campaign was created by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), in partnership with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The advertising for this campaign will feature agriculture detector dogs. These detector dogs can detect fruits, vegetables, meats or other prohibited items that may carry animal, pests, or plant diseases that could possibly harm U.S. agriculture resources.

According to this webpage (http://1.usa.gov/qUVoGQ) about detector dogs…

“A dog can screen a vehicle in seconds and do a thorough exam in minutes. Even a cursory search by an officer or agent would require at least 20 minutes. A canine team can also process 400 to 500 packages in about 30 minutes. It would take several inspectors an entire shift to process the same number of packages.”

These dogs have an average working life of 6 to 8 years. They typically work until they reach the age of 10. At the end of his career, a hard-working canine will most likely go to live with his handler.

More from the webpage on these dogs…

“A Beagle’s natural love of food makes them effective detectives and happy to work for treats. These dogs are bright, inquisitive, active hounds whose sense of smell makes them curious wanderers by nature. They also serve as ambassadors for the importance of agricultural quarantine work, making hundreds of appearances yearly. Beagles are among the healthiest of all dog breeds. They travel well and are equally at home indoors or outdoors.”

“The ‘Beagle Brigade’ works in airports inspecting passenger luggage looking for prohibited fruit, meat and plant material.”

“Larger breeds are used to work airport cargo areas and the main distribution centers for international mail. These larger dogs also work at northern and southern land border stations inspecting luggage and cargo from trucks, buses and vehicles.”

“There are currently 115 agriculture detector dog teams around the United States primarily located at international airports, seaports, land border ports of entry and international mail facilities. In Fiscal Year 2006, agriculture canine teams seized 1,145 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 147 agricultural pests at ports of entry.”

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