Harrier hound joins biosecurity frontline

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She looks like a giant beagle. She isn't, but she is the first harrier hound to work for the Ministry for Primary Industries as a biosecurity detector dog.

Lou lou and her handler Rachel Thurdon started checking Auckland airport passengers this week for goods that could carry imported pests or diseases.

"It's definitely a first for MPI, and it's possibly the first time in the world a harrier has been used for biosecurity detection purposes," says Brett Hickman, MPI Detection Technology Manager.

Gifted to MPI by the New Zealand Hunts' Association, the 2-year-old harrier has been described as a "super-sized beagle", he says.

"She looks very much like a beagle, but is much taller."

Lou lou is the first of what could be many harriers to work in a biosecurity role for MPI, he says. 

"Harriers have huge potential. They have a good nature, strong drive and are great at sniffing out food and plant materials.

"Their extra height also gives them additional reach to scan backpacks or baggage that is stacked high on the trolley."

Lou lou and her handler are one of 12 MPI biosecurity detector dog teams that recently completed their training, and one of 24 new teams due to start by mid December.

"The new dog teams will boost our biosecurity defences, particularly against plant materials that could contain fruit fly. They are one of a range of things we are doing this year to make it harder for fruit fly to enter New Zealand."

MPI mainly uses beagles and labradors as biosecurity detector dogs. It runs a beagle breeding-programme.

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