Puppies to sniff out biosecurity risks

Darcy and Darwin - and some human helpers - at the Auckland Biosecurity Centre today.
Darcy and Darwin - and some human helpers - at the Auckland Biosecurity Centre today.

Beagle puppies Darcy and Darwin were introduced to the world today at the Auckland Biosecurity Centre.

They are the Ministry for Primary Industries' newest biosecurity sniffer dogs, and will eventually be taught to sniff out risk items at ports and airports, including plants, meat, fruit and vegetables.

Unlike customs dogs they are not trained to detect drugs or other materials that may be of interests to Customs.

The puppies, collectively known as D-litter, were born by caesarean in May to working dog Zuma, under the MPI detector dog breeding programme.

They will now head off to private puppy walking homes in Auckland in preparation for their training, and all going to plan will start sniffing out at risk items from next year.

The programme has produced 27 litters since 1996 and nearly 80 per cent of the individual puppies have become successful biosecurity detector dogs.

There is 40 dog teams operating out of New Zealand ports and airports, as well as the International Mail Centre in Auckland.

MPI Director Border Clearance Services Steve Gilbert said the breeding programme provided a cost effective way of producing fit-for-purpose biosecurity dogs.

Also on show at the Biosecurity Centre today was Boston, a springer spaniel that MPI is training to work in the field to detect any pest that makes it across the border.

"We are working to develop a new type of dog that will be able to help with biosecurity responses. It will have the flexibility to be trained to detect any new pest that makes it to New Zealand," said Mr Gilbert.

Traditional border biosecurity dogs were not suitable in the incursion role, as they are trained to sniff out food and could be distracted by food odours when working outside, he said.

They hoped to have two incursion dogs assisting with biosecurity responses in the near future, said Mr Gilbert.

The new kennel facility at the Biosecurity Centre was also showcased today.

The kennel facility would house 15 additional dogs, and the extra space would allow for the programme to grow, Mr Gilbert said.

- APNZ

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