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News Release

California Department of Food and Agriculture

Media Contacts: Steve Lyle, CDFA, 916-654-0462,,

California Department of Food and Agriculture
Release #09-070


Team detected pests in local package facility

SACRAMENTO, September 1, 2009 – A parcel inspection dog named Tassie and her handler, Jennifer Berger, received congratulations from Secretary A.G. Kawamura of the California Department of Agriculture (CDFA) for her recent discovery of a serious pest in a parcel.

The “sniff dog” team was on the job for the Sacramento County Department of Agriculture last week when Tassie alerted on a package containing guavas and curry leaves and found approximately 100 Asian citrus psyllids (ACP), a pest that can carry huanglongbing (HLB), a disease fatal to citrus plants.  The parcel originated in Texas and was not inspected locally prior to shipment.

“Tassie is one of six sniff dogs now working in California, and we are working to add four more teams by Spring 2010,” said CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura. “Every time Tassie and her friends prevent a serious pest from getting into our state, they save our growers from onerous quarantines and they save our taxpayers thousands, even millions of dollars in eradication costs.”
Sniff dog funding for FY 2009/10 is approximately $1.5 million with $1 million coming from the federal Farm Bill and the remainder from federal appropriations.
CDFA has established quarantines for ACP in San Diego, Imperial and Orange counties, and a quarantine is pending in Los Angeles county.

All citrus and closely related species are susceptible hosts for both the insect and HLB. There is no cure once a tree becomes infected. The diseased tree will decline in health until it dies.  HLB has not been detected in trapped psyllids or trees in California.

The state of Florida first detected the pest in 1998 and the disease in 2005, and the two have now been detected in all 30 citrus producing counties in that state. The pest and the disease are also present in Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina. The states of Texas, Mississippi and Alabama have detected the pest but not the disease.

For a picture of Tassie the sniff dog and her handler, visit:


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