Traveling outside of the country? Don't Pack a Pest!

Detector Dogs in Action

Dogs have a long history of working in partnership with humans. Building on this partnership between humans and dogs, U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) detector dogs are a key tool for screening passengers and cargo to prevent harmful plant pests and foreign animal diseases from entering the U.S.

The ability to discriminate and target a specific odor, such as that of an orange or even a live snail, makes dogs an invaluable tool in detecting prohibited agricultural items hidden from view. When it comes to finding prohibited fruit, vegetables, plants, and meat products from high-risk countries, the nose knows. A trained agriculture dog can scan a piece of luggage for smuggled or forgotten fruits in mere seconds. Understandably, it takes an officer much longer to open and visually inspect the same bag.

In 1984, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established its detector dog program “Beagle Brigade” at the Los Angeles International Airport with one beagle trained to sniff out plants and animal products in luggage and carry-on items arriving on international flights. Beagles and beagle mixes are the preferred breed of dog at the airport because of their keen sense of smell, non-threatening size, high food drive, and gentle disposition with the public.

In 2003, when USDA transferred agricultural inspectors to CBP, approximately 75 canine teams were included. Today, more than 110 CBP agriculture canine teams provide screening at the border crossings, preclearance locations, air passenger terminals, cruise terminals, cargo warehouses, and mail facilities that process international passengers and commodities. For more information, visit CBP Agriculture Canine.

Detector Dogs in Action

Milo from Atlanta

United States Department of Agriculture Customs and Border Patrol Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services California Department of Food & Agriculture