A recently introduced bill would provide permanent authorization for the National Detector Dog Training Center
By Diego Flammini
A piece of bipartisan legislation introduced in the senate in March would support four-legged workers who use their noses to keep U.S. agriculture safe.
Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) tabled the Beagle Brigade Act on March 9.
The bill would provide permanent authorization for the USDA’s National Detector Dog Training Centre in Newman, Ga.
The center trains dogs, mostly beagles, for 13 weeks to detect illegal food, pests and diseases, and prevent those from entering the U.S.
Currently, the center isn’t authorized by Congress, relying instead on USDA user fees. This can lead to inconsistent funding.
In 2017, the USDA estimated invasive pests costs the U.S. about $120 billion each year in damages to agriculture, the environment and native species.
Passing this bill is important to safeguarding the U.S. ag sector, Senator Ernst said.
“Iowa farmers know that viruses like avian influenza and African Swine Fever have the power to devastate our agriculture industry, so we must do everything in our power to keep these diseases out of our farms and fields,” she said in a statement.
These dogs have helped keep the U.S. ag sector safe in recent years.
In January 2023, for example, a beagle named Harrie sniffed out luggage at Philadelphia International Airport with nearly 17 pounds of citrus and another six mounts of persimmons.
In November 2022, a beagle named Mox sniffed out a giant African snail arriving from Nigeria.
And in October 2018, a beagle named Hardy found a roasted pig’s head in a bag arriving at the Hartsfield-Jackson airport from Ecuador.
Industry groups support the Beagle Brigade Act.
Keeping livestock and plants free of foreign diseases is important for the health of U.S. farms, said Doug Chapin, chairman of the Michigan Milk Producers Association.
“Michigan’s dairy farmers work hard to care for herds and protect them from harm, and we fully support this effort to prevent foreign animal diseases from entering the U.S.,” he said in a statement.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) supports the bill and wants it passed quickly.
“As African swine fever continues to plague the Dominican Republic and Haiti, strengthening early detection capabilities at our U.S. borders is more important than ever,” said Terry Wolters, president of the NPPC.