Agriculture K-9 “Wade” is off to a great start in his first month on the job, detecting undeclared prohibited avian and swine products in the baggage of a passenger who originated from China that resulted in a civil penalty. In light of the current African swine fever (ASF) outbreak in China, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is proud of their first agriculture canine to be posted at the CBP Preclearance operations at the Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Wade started in February and has already demonstrated his enthusiasm and skills which have resulted in more than 100 alerts, according to a CBP news release.
Lee DeLoatch, CBP Port Director for Toronto Preclearance Operations, said these alerts have led to 62 seizures of 84 plant materials and three animal products.
Wade is starting his fourth year as an agriculture detector dog. Like many canines in the program, Wade received a second lease on life in 2015 when the USDA Beagle Brigade adopted him from an animal control facility in Alabama at roughly one year of age. He began his sniffing career at Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and then did a brief stint at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
“CBP’s agriculture inspection and protection mission is a critical part of CBP’s mission,” DeLoatch, said. “CBP’s agriculture specialists and our Beagle Brigade work side by side to detect and intercept prohibited food items, invasive weed seeds and insects, and plant and animal diseases that pose a significant threat to U.S. agricultural industries and our nation’s economy.”
The USDA announced measures in early March to prevent the spread of ASF to the U.S. One of those measures included expanding the Beagle Brigade by 60 new teams for a total of 179 beagle teams at key U.S. airports and sea ports.
CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day in fiscal year 2018, CBP agriculture specialists discovered 319 pests at U.S. ports of entry and 4,452 materials for quarantine.
Creating a positive experience with the traveling public, especially children, encourages compliance with agriculture regulations at U.S. ports of entry. The teams help people understand what the dogs are trying to do to protect the country.
“The teams interact with people every day,” said Kevin Harriger, executive director for agriculture programs and trade liaison with CBP. “They hand out comic books and trading cards that feature the beagle with his or her stats, including name, favorite odors, training site, etc.”
Although it is very difficult to help every traveler understand the consequences of FADs hitting U.S. soil, the K9 teams give it their best shot.
“We are not the judge and jury,” Harriger said. “But it’s up to our team to keep plant and animal diseases out of the United States. And with African swine fever, for example, the virus can manifest itself in meat or refuse. If it doesn’t go through a sanitary system or get destroyed through an incineration or steam sterilization process, we’ve got live virus in the U.S.”