26 September 2023

Detector dogs nothing to sniff at

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Biosecurity detector dogs intercepted more than 56,000 biosecurity risk items across Australia’s airports and mail centres in 2019.

Head of Biosecurity at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Lyn O’Connell, said detector dogs were a crucial part of Australia’s frontline defence against pests and diseases.

She said any of the 56,000 seized items could have carried a pest or disease that could impact on industry, the environment and human health.

“One of the more interesting dog finds included chicken eggs containing formed embryos that were concealed in a bag of peanuts, and fish stuffed with pork meat,” Ms O’Connell said.

“Over 4,000 undeclared meat products were also detected by our detector dog fleet last year, including 1,800 undeclared pork products.”

She said such products posed a significant risk because they can carry African swine fever, which could be devastating to Australia’s pork industry.

“In 2019-20 we have also seen three visa cancellations for serious breaches of Australian biosecurity laws, all thanks to referrals from our biosecurity detector dogs,” Ms O’Connell said.

“To help manage seasonal or emerging pest and disease risks, we are looking at ways to modernise the detector dog fleet,” she said.

“For instance, in Brisbane we have trialled the use of detector dogs for the screening of imported cars to detect brown marmorated stink bug, which is a significant horticultural pest.”

She said the average detector dog would find up to 9,000 biosecurity risk items during its working life, with the three most common items found being meat, fruit and seeds.

There are currently 43 biosecurity detector dogs working for the Department.

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