Puppies take first step to become biosecurity detectors

A team of nine Labrador puppies are taking the next step toward becoming biosecurity detectors for New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries.

The F-Litter will soon leave the MPI Detector Dog Breeding Center in Auckland to move to private homes. The puppies will spend the next year learning how to act in public.

The litter was born to Demi, an existing MPI detector dog, and Guiding Light RJ, a breeding stud from the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind - Guide Dog Services.

Labradors are used by the MPI to work with both mail and passengers. The MPI typically uses beagles with passengers and mixed breed dogs with mail. The MPI is continuing to breed beagles for inspections.

Roger Cook, MPI's manager of detection technology, said that detector dog teams are useful for detecting biosecurity risks when used with other checks at a border.

"No single border intervention is sufficient to manage biosecurity by itself," Cook said. "Dogs are good at picking up seeds and plants that can be hard to detect by X-ray. They also screen people faster than X-ray, and their visual presence is a significant factor."

In December, two new dog teams joined the Christchurch International Airport to double the airport's prior capacity of biosecurity dog detectors. Two human dog handlers joined two dogs to detect potential biosecurity risks coming into New Zealand. Stephen James and Jemma Grant joined 46 other recent biosecurity frontline staff graduates in the field, Voxy.co.nz reports.

"The new staff we have just deployed across the country will bring MPI's biosecurity frontline up to full strength and will help the ministry meet the demands of the busy summer peak season," Steve Gilbert, the airport's border clearance services manager, said, according to Voxy.co.nz.