(BPT) - Every year, nearly 400,000 shelter dogs are euthanized because of overcrowding and the inability to find them a fur-ever home. Now, thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Services’ (APHIS) Detector Dog program, many of these pound puppies can have a new lease on life.
APHIS’ National Detector Dog Training Center (NDDTC) trains purebred and mixed-breed beagles, Labrador retrievers and Jack Russel terriers to sniff out invasive plant pests and animal diseases that threaten America’s agriculture, food supply and natural resources. This elite sniffing force and their human handlers undergo 8-10 weeks of rigorous training before they can graduate from the Detector Dog program and go on to serve their country.
More than 30 canine teams are working in airports, mail facilities and border crossings across the country. Every day, these dogs search, locate and respond to prohibited food, plants and animals harboring damaging insects and harmful diseases. For the past 37 years, the APHIS trained detector dogs have been working the front lines to keep harmful pests, like the Mediterranean fruit fly, out of the U.S. While Labrador retrievers and their handlers are protecting our nation’s fruit by patrolling citrus orchards along the Texas-Mexico border in search of infested or diseased crops.
APHIS’ Detector Dog program is not only safeguarding U.S. agriculture and natural resources, but it is also partnering with countries like Canada and Taiwan to supply guidance, training and proof of concept testing of canine detection for foreign government support. There are even Detector Dog teams on the job at cargo airports throughout countries in the Pacific, tasked with identifying invasive species and stopping them from reaching Hawaii.
The work these dogs and their handlers do is critical to help stop the spread of invasive plant and pest diseases that could ravage America’s crops, trees and plants. USDA APHIS wants to grow their fleet of super sniffers and are looking for more dogs to be donated to the program from animal shelters, rescue groups and private owners. To qualify, dogs must be:
- Purebred or mixed-breed beagles, Labrador retrievers and Jack Russel terriers
- 10 month to three years old
- Friendly and in good health
- Have a high food drive
- No history of aggression
If you or someone you know would like to donate a dog, please reach out to USDAcanineadoptions@usda.gov, call (887) 797-3899 or learn more at: www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/planthealth/ppq-program-overview/nddtc. With the public’s help, some much-deserving dogs can land a dream job and new purpose—protecting America’s agriculture and food supply.