Committee's "Dogged" Pursuit of New Law

Sep 11, 2000

Committee's "Dogged" Pursuit of New Law: 
Detector Dog finds home at House Agriculture Committee

Some recently-passed legislation found its way home — literally — when a dog selected for inspection of imported agricultural goods arrived on the House Agriculture Committee's doorstep Monday morning.  When forging groundbreaking reform legislation on crop insurance this session, House Agriculture Committee Members added a provision that prohibits harming the animals used for official inspections by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).  Recently, when the Inspection service needed a new home for the early retirement of one of its detector dogs, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) accepted three year old beagle named "Angus" on behalf of the Committee. 

"Angus has found a good home with the Agriculture Committee as a good will ambassador for the Inspection Service," said Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX).  "We put a law on the books to protect these animals as partners in crop protection.  His adoption by the Committee backs our belief that Angus and his pals are valued for their training and service in patrolling for imported pests or diseases harmful to U.S. agriculture." 

APHIS-trained detector dogs work with inspectors at international airports and border crossings to check baggage and cargo entering the United States, as well as make public appearances to highlight the potential costs of eradication posed by disease and pests harbored in fruits, plants and meats inadvertently introduced as a result of international travel. 

Under the new law, anyone harming or interfering with one of the detector dogs faces a $10,000 fine.  The Ag Committee added the civil penalty after one of the APHIS Beagle Brigade inspector dogs named "Barney" was forced to retire due to injuries suffered when kicked by an airline passenger during a routine baggage examination.  At the time of the attack, in the absence of a federal law against injuring the specially trained animal, the only legal recourse was to seek reimbursement of veterinary fees. 

"USDA's Beagle Brigade, with their natural love of food and their ability to remain calm in noisy locations, are effective detectives and able to work well alongside APHIS inspectors to safeguard American agriculture from harmful foreign pests and diseases," said Michael V. Dunn, under secretary for USDA's marketing and regulatory programs. "We are thrilled that the House Agriculture Committee chose such a fitting mascot as a constant reminder of the need to protect American agriculture."  

During initial training as a detector dog, Angus preferred to curl up inside a suitcase, rather than alert its handler to produce carrying disease or pests.  Dogs retired or not completing training are given new homes.

For more information on donating or adopting a beagle from the APHIS National Detector Dog Training Center, contact the Center at 407/816-1192.