The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is unleashing the first class of detector dogs capable of using scent to detect wildlife smuggled into the country.
Four retrievers and their handlers will be stationed at key ports of entry in an effort to stem the growing trade in threatened animal parts such as elephant ivory and rhino horn.
Wildlife parts is the latest frontier for "sniffer" dogs. Dogs are used by law enforcement and border agencies to detect bombs, ammunition, currency, drugs, humans, and fresh food items that pose a security threat or are prohibited from entering or leaving the country. Some dogs have been been trained to track down pythons that are invading Florida's Everglades.
The FWS enforces U.S. wildlife laws and is responsible for U.S. enforcement of the Convention of the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which restricts cross-border trade in protected wild animals and plants.
Using dogs will give inspectors a new capacity to quickly scan air, rail and ocean cargo, as well as international mail and express delivery packages at ports of entry and mail facilities without having to open each crate, box or parcel, FWS said.
The dogs completed a 13-week course at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Detector Dog Training Center in Newnan, Ga. The center normally trains dogs to detect fruits and plants to catch potential insects or diseases that could harm U.S. agriculture.