Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican, is partnering with a Georgia Senator who’s a Democrat to seek more permanent funding for a government program that trains dogs to detect animal diseases.
“They use some of them in airports because, of course, people bring in unauthorized goods through TSA and other means,” Ernst says.
Most of the dogs are beagles and the operation has been dubbed the “Beagle Brigade” — and Ernst says it’s role is critical due to rising concerns about African Swine Fever and bird flu. The National Detector Dog Training Center in Georgia is financed this year with about seven million dollars in airport fees, but Ernst says that’s an unstable funding source.
“Wild swings in funding that don’t allow the consistencies that we need to make sure we’re protecting our goods here in the United States,” Ernst says.
Ernst is pushing for congress to include funding for the program in the USDA’s budget. The dogs help screen baggage, cargo, and parcels at neary 90 U.S. airports to detect fruits, vegetables and meats that couuld carry foreign plant pests or animal diseases into the country. Beagles are the preferred breed for this work because they are even tempered in crowds and have a highly-developed sense of smell.
(By Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio)