California Dog Teams

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.

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 8-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 or our environment. 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, Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Clara.

In FY 2021 (July 1, 2021- June 30, 2022) the California Dog Teams continued to demonstrate that unmarked parcels present a high–risk pathway for significant agricultural pests to enter California. During the agreement period, a total of 966 significant pests were intercepted by California Dog Teams. Some of these interceptions involved multiple pest specimen in a single package. Our detector dogs alerted on parcels that yielded pests that are known to cause serious agricultural and economic impacts such as Caribbean fruit fly, Cedar and Japanese apple rusts, federally actionable weed species including Hydrilla, and several first–detected fungi, and noxious weeds not known to occur in California and the United States.

The California Dog Teams alerted on 47,504 marked and unmarked parcels containing agricultural products. Of the total alerted parcels, 6,393 were intercepted at USPS facilities and of these packages 3,210 were unmarked. Additionally, the teams performed the 90 percent accuracy rate for detecting agricultural commodities in unmarked packages at private parcel facilities (i.e. FedEx and UPS). Due to the efforts of the California Dog Teams during this reporting period, 2,556 rejections have been issued for violation of state and federal plant quarantine laws and regulations.

Over the life of the Dog Teams program, Dog Teams have alerted on over 5,521 actionable pests. Actionable pests are those that could harm our agriculture or natural environment if they were to become established here in California. In addition to the actionable pests the Dog Teams have detected, Dog Teams have also found over 595,330 marked and unmarked parcels containing agricultural products, these detections have resulted in more than 25,613 parcels being cited for violations of state and federal plant quarantine laws and regulations.