Unwanted pests hitching a ride in the mail are a threat to California's billion-dollar agriculture, but they're no match for Dozer the Detector Dog. (CBS 13) (1:41)
NOTE: WEBSITE UPDATE IN PROGRESS - 9/16/16
About the dog teams
The purpose of the California Dog Teams is to enhance inspection and surveillance activities related to plant products entering the State of California via parcel delivery facilities and airfreight terminals. The purpose of this website is to highlight accomplishments of dog team activities.
Each dog in the Program has been rescued through animal shelters, breed rescue groups, newspaper/internet ads, etc. Dogs which have been selected for the Program have been screened for high food drive, sociability, intelligence, physical soundness and low anxiety levels. Dogs and handlers must complete an intense 10-week training through the USDA National Detector Dog Training Center (Newnan, Georgia) prior to beginning inspections in California. Dogs are initially trained to detect the following five target odors in parcels: citrus, apple, mango, guava and stone fruit. Once the teams have mastered the five target odors, handlers work with their partners to increase their repertoire to plants, soil, insects, etc.
Once fully trained, the dogs alert on marked and unmarked parcels that contain agricultural product. Trained biologist then inspect the packages that the dogs have alerted on for any unwanted plant pests, including insect species, diseases or other harmful organisms that may pose a threat to the economic well-being of the State. Currently, California Dog Teams conduct inspections at UPS, FedEx, OnTrac and other private parcel carriers throughout California. In 2010, a multi-agency (USDA, USPS, CDFA, CACASA) Memorandum of Understanding was signed to allow CDFA Dog Teams to begin inspections at the US Postal Service.
California Dog Teams operate out of the following counties: Alameda, Contra Costa (2 teams), Fresno, Los Angeles (3 teams), Sacramento (2 teams), San Bernardino, San Diego (2 teams), Santa Barbara and Santa Clara.
The California Dog Teams have demonstrated that unmarked parcels present a high-risk pathway for harmful pests to enter California. Between July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015, California Dog Teams alerted on 22,583 total marked and unmarked parcels containing agricultural product. A total of 490 actionable pests were intercepted during this period. (An actionable pest may be a pest of economic or environmental concern and is either not known to be established in California or it is present in a limited distribution that allows for the possibility of eradication or successful containment.) Additionally, 2,273 package rejections were issued during that time period for violations of state and federal plant quarantine laws and regulations.