Biosecurity toothache for passenger

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A tooth intercepted by Ministry for Primary Industries staff at Queenstown Airport cost its owner a hefty fine and lessons in both biosecurity and animal dentistry.

An MPI biosecurity detector dog last weekend sniffed out the tooth in a handbag carried by an air passenger arriving from China.

The woman’s travelling companion explained it was a dog’s tooth she used for luck when she flew. She had purchased the tooth from a store in rural China.

MPI staff quickly recognised the large tooth was from a cow, not a dog, says Andrew Spelman, MPI Border Clearance Manager, Central and South Region.

“It looked way too big to be from a dog.”

The woman was fined $400 for failing to declare the item and had it explained to her that biosecurity was very important to New Zealand,” says Mr Spelman.

“Under the worst case scenario the tooth could have been contaminated with foot-and-mouth disease, as China has had outbreaks of this devastating virus in the past.

“It could also have been carrying other diseases such as rabies, given its rural origin and the unknown circumstance of the cow’s death.”

He says the tooth was one of MPI’s “more unusual” biosecurity interceptions at Queenstown Airport so far this year.

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