The Beagle Brigade is a team of beagles (and their handlers) who inspect luggage at international airports. This team of beagles are part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which began in 1984. These little hounds are inspecting and searching for any restricted food (fruit, vegetables, animal byproducts, unauthorized meat, etc.) that could carry diseases and pests that could potentially infect our U.S. agriculture.
The beagle was chosen for this job for many reasons. Beagles are very friendly, gentle with people, and small in size, but most importantly they have an acute sense of smell. Originally, the beagle was bred to hunt rabbits, so they can detect smells that are very faint, actually too faint to be sensed by scientific equipment. In addition to their keen nose, they have an enormous and undiscerning appetite. Beagles can recognize up to 50 distinct smells. When one of the restricted scents are discovered, the dog will sit down next to the baggage or luggage to alert its handler. The handler will then talk to the passenger and possibly inspect the bag if necessary. Experienced Beagle Brigade members have a 90% success rate! The USDA National Detector Dog Training Center (outside of Atlanta, GA., USA) receives beagles donated by private owners, breeders, and shelters.
‘Bayou’, a son of ‘Cowboy’ and ‘Rimmy’, is a graduate of the National Detector Dog Training Center and is now an official member of the Beagle Brigade! Bayou now lives in Japan with his handler. He is helping to keep the agriculture products in Japan safe from pests and/or diseases that might come in luggage that people could bring in from other countries. Way to go Bayou!!