Beagle Detector Dogs Sniffing Out to Help Save New Zealand

14 May 2001

They'll get into your rubbish, dig up your garden, pull your washing off the line, and even steal your child's ice cream.

This might not sound like your ideal family pet - but with these credentials, the Beagle has the makings of an excellent international airport detector dog for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

As well as having a naughty streak, they have personality-plus - they're friendly, out-going and love being with people.

They are also very cute. And, in a job that requires a lot of sniffing around travellers and their luggage - looks certainly help.

The Beagle is now internationally recognised as the Agriculture Detector Dog working at airports in New Zealand, the United States, Australia and Argentina.

The New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is recruiting 11 new detector dog teams as part of its move to intensify our country's biosecurity controls at international airports.

MAF's National Dog Training Centre at Auckland International Airport is a hive of activity with eight new beagles, who have come from throughout New Zealand, now in training.

Detector Dog Programme Manager Rene Gloor, who has been working at the centre for seven years, is confident most of them will pass the training course.

"We're looking for those who have an incredibly high hunger drive and are motivated to work - they can smell out food, wrapped in foil or plastic, from up to 40 metres away.

"Every time they are successful, during training and on duty, they are rewarded with a dog biscuit. Food becomes their salary - the more they find the more they earn - and these dogs just love to eat," Rene says.

During the ten-week training course the dogs are taught to smell out the meat, fruit, plants, seeds, and eggs that could harbour diseases and pests that threaten our agriculture and horticulture industries.

They memorise the exact smells to hunt out, and they are conditioned not to respond to other products that might smell like fruit, such as chewing gum, which smells of strawberries and shampoo that smells of peach, but are not a risk.

A dog-lover all his life, Rene is passionate about the care his detector dogs receive. Those that don't make it are always found kind homes, and those that do lead, as the saying goes, "a dog's life".

"They spend their lives doing what they enjoy most, and being rewarded for it. "They love to work because they want to be busy, they thrive on being with people, and get loads of TLC.

"They also get plenty of time to play and run about and every night they're tucked up with a warm blanket in their own kennel," says Rene.

For the dog handlers, they're just as happy in their work.

Three months into her new job, Heidi Tennent, who had been a nurse for seven year is all smiles, although she's getting a little weary-eyed having worked 11 hours of the third of her four-day shift which started at 4.30am.

With her detector dog Penny, who's been on active airport duty for a year, they've had a successful day as part of a crew that had 20 seizures including chicken and ham sandwiches, beef jerky, green chillies and fresh mangos.

The meat seizures could be a possible host for Foot and Mouth Disease or other animal diseases whereas the fruit could host fruit fly larvae.

In their working career, a detector dog team working at Auckland International Airport will sniff out an average of 6000 seizures.

Every thousand-seizure milestone is celebrated with a pin for the handler's jacket along with a big bone for the beagle.

A just reward for a cute little dog who's dedicated to helping save our country.


For comment on the Detector Dog Programme: Rene Gloor 09 256 7032 021 543 263
For general information or follow up detail: Anna Lorck FMD Public Education Campaign 06 858 8301 or 021 245 8300



Last Updated: 28 September 2010

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