Beagles Patrol Air Ports
JASON DORDAY/Eastern Courier
Beagles keep a nose in front of contraband
By HEATHER McCRACKEN
The airline passenger from Australia was only carrying a wallet, but the detector dog could smell something else writes Eastern Courier reporter HEATHER McCRACKEN.
Dog handler Liz Moore says it was clear the beagle had sniffed out something of interest.
“He just kept pushing his nose into the man’s pocket,” she says.
At the handler’s request the man opened his wallet to reveal a couple of small leaves.
They were a souvenir pulled from a tree on the set of the television show Neighbours.
The beagles’s sensitive noses are trained to sniff out anything that could carry unwanted pests or disease: Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, plant products and live animals.
Ms Moore says they can smell even a single seed on the bottom of a shoe.
Some of her more bizarre finds have included turtle eggs, alligator heads, live crickets, and porcupine quills.
Dogs spend 11-hour shifts at the airport with Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry handlers, inspecting baggage and taking naps in their dog rest room.
Beagles are chosen both for their highly-developed sense of smell, and their friendly, non-threatening image.
But that doesn’t prevent some passengers from running away, or even taking a swipe at them.
“My dog has had a clip around the ear a couple of times,” Ms Moore says.
“We get quite a bit of grief, but most people are really good and just say, ‘Oh, cute dog’.”
The beagles undergo 12 weeks training with mock luggage, then short stints among passengers.
The New Zealand breeding programme is the only one of its kind in the world, and sends dogs to work in Canada, Korea and Hawaii.
Four or five litters are born every year, with about 85 percent of puppies passing the test to become working detector dogs.
Beagle puppies live with host families for about the first year of their life.
A new litter is expected in August, and families will be needed for the puppies from October.
Puppies need regular exercise and social outings to get used to being around people.
All costs are covered by the puppy development programme, and the dog will be looked after when the family wants to go away on holiday.
For more information about being a puppy walker, contact Kirsty, phone: 256-7035.