Australia’s frontline detector dog program has seen some changes to itsranks, with detector dog Velvet retiring, and new graduate Finlay joining theranks.

Detector dogs play an important role in ensuring biosecurity compliance oftravellers and are key to finding difficult to detect biosecurity risk.

Recently the detector dogs have been conducting biosecurity inspections onimported vehicles as the exotic pest Brown marmorated stink bug can be foundhitchhiking on board these vehicles. The first ever dog to sniff out a livedetection of these nasty hitchhikers was Velvet.

First Assistant Secretary of Biosecurity Operations at the Department ofAgriculture, Water and the Environment, Colin Hunter, said detector dogs andtheir handlers are a vital part of Australia’s biosecurity detectioncapabilities, intercepting tens of thousands of biosecurity risk items eachyear.

“We continue to have 42 detector dogs deployed nationally to sniff outbiosecurity threats through the traveller, mail, and cargo pathways.

“Velvet predominantly worked in Sydney, with short periods of deployment inMelbourne and Brisbane. Velvet had 2,600 actionable biosecurity seizures inher career, including fruit, vegetables, meat, seeds, and eggs, and was thefirst detector dog to successfully detect a live Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.”

Biosecurity detector dogs screened more than 10.5 million incoming mail itemsand intercepted approximately 9,400 biosecurity risk items in 2021.

The highest volume commodity detected was plant and plant products (includingseeds) with over 6,900 interceptions across the four international mailcentres.

Hunter continued: “Velvet has retired to a loving home, has settled in nicelywith the rest of her new pack and now enjoys long walks on the beach.

“The most recent graduate, Finlay, completed his novice detector dog trainingin January. Following a brief deployment in the mail, traveller, and cargoenvironments in Brisbane, he is now on his way to Sydney to continue sniffingout biosecurity threats. At only two years old Finlay is very energetic. Athis graduation he preferred to play tug of war with his hat rather than wearit, showing everyone his playful side.

“With the return of international travel, detector dog teams around thecountry are ready to meet the increased demand for screening.”

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