HONOLULU – The state’s plant quarantine inspection corps is growing with a couple of new recruits. Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) Plant Quarantine inspector, Nari, has been on maternity leave for the past several months – taking care of her four adorable newborns. She’s been a very good mother, but now foster parents will take over while she transitions back to her inspection duties with the Plant Quarantine Branch’s Hawaii Detector Dog Program (HDDP).
Nari, a one-and-a-half-year-old beagle, has increased the detector dog pool of beagles in the department’s pilot breeding program. She gave birth on February 21st and her puppies will be raised for the next year or two by foster families until they are ready to be trained to detect plant material and animals, such as snakes, in baggage, cargo and on passengers arriving in Hawai‘i. The program is hopeful that Nari’s offspring will follow in their mother’s pawprints and help to protect Hawai‘i from uninvited pests.
The HDOA Detector Dog Program currently has four human inspectors and 10 working detector dogs – nine beagles and one German shorthaired pointer. Although not all dogs can be trained as detector dogs, the program staff will monitor the puppies as they grow to determine whether they are suitable for the program. Previously, dogs would be purchased and imported from New Zealand, Australia, Korea and Taiwan.
Foster parents were selected through a screening process and have agreed to work at socializing the pups to people and situations they may encounter as detector dogs. The program pays for the food and veterinary expenses while the dogs are in foster care.
“The foster parents will play an important role in developing good detector dogs,” said Todd Kikuta, HDDP coordinator. “Detector dogs must be comfortable around people and should not be afraid of loud noises and commotion.”
The priority of the program is to inspect all incoming commercial and military flights from Guam, due to the threat of hitchhiking brown treesnakes. The dog teams also patrol baggage claim areas for undeclared plant material that passengers may carry with them.
In fiscal year 2006 (June 2005 – July 2006), the HDDP monitored 1,611 flights, 336,000 passengers, 8,170 pieces of baggage and detected 2,800 undeclared plant materials.
Detector dog inspectors, Cindy Nakamura and Carrie Itoman, wrangle the new puppies for their big photo op.