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Fun Fact March 6, 2020.

6 March 2020


The Beagle Brigade is a team of beagles and their human handlers who are part of the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS for short.  The team inspects luggage at U.S. airports searching for agricultural products.  According to the USDA, the Beagle Brigade program averages around 75,000 seizures of prohibited agricultural products a year.  Unauthorized meat, animal byproducts, fruit and vegetables can carry diseases and pests that have the potential to infect U.S. agriculture. For example, foot-and-mouth disease could be introduced into the U.S. via contaminated meat products brought into the country by a traveler. The APHIS works in conjunction with the U. S. Customs and Border Protection and the United States Public Health Service at entry points to the U.S., including land borders, ports and airports. The Beagle Brigade generally works in the baggage-claim area at international airports.  Originally bred for rabbit hunting, the beagle has an acute sense of smell; they can detect smells that are too faint to be sensed by scientific equipment. In addition, they have a voracious and undiscerning appetite. Beagles are generally friendly and gentle with people, and, due to their small size, are not intimidating. For these reasons, beagles were chosen as the breed to be used for these APHIS airport inspections. Experienced beagles have a 90% success rate, and can recognize almost 50 distinct smells.  The APHIS airport inspection program started in 1984 at Los Angeles International Airport.  A beagle’s career with the Beagle Brigade usually lasts between six and ten years. When they retire, they are usually adopted by their handlers.  Otherwise, they are placed in adoptive homes.  The USDA National Detector Dog Training Center in Newnan, Georgia, receives beagles donated by private owners, breeders, and animal shelters to become part of the Beagle Brigade.