There seem to be no bounds in what you can train a dog to do. Unknown to many beagles are being used by authorities at airports to sniff out food. Here’s the article:
“New York City does not lack for exotic and specialty food shops, but perhaps the most diverse display of ever-changing imported produce can be found in what is called the grinding room in the customs area of John F. Kennedy International Airport’s Terminal 4, the major gateway for international arrivals.
On Thursday afternoon, there was a cornucopia of hard-to-identify foodstuffs on a large metal table in the inspection area. There was sugar cane, dusty yams, dragon fruit and a panoply of herbs. There were strange tubers and a variety of homemade sausages and rodent meat. There was a load of red prickly fruit, small citrus fruits and of course plenty of mangoes.
“Everyone thinks their country has the best mangoes,” said Meghan Caffery, a United States Customs and Border Protection officer. Officer Caffery gets a daily tour of illicit goods from her partner: a 6-year-old female beagle named Izzy, an agricultural products sniffer dog who is something of a four-legged first line of defense to guard against contraband items entering the country that may be a threat to agriculture and public health.
Since it is difficult to know immediately what agricultural products carry viruses, pests and diseases that may be harmful, Izzy is trained to whiff a wide variety of food. Two-legged inspectors then decide what may pass through and what must be confiscated.
But as Izzy scoots off to whiff baggage arriving on a flight from Paris, why not let Izzy show us the drill first-hand? This is how Officer Caffery makes her rounds, being pulled by Izzy’s leash from bag to bag. Every few minutes, Izzy sits pointedly on the floor and looks up expectantly at Officer Caffery. And now she was doing just that, at the feet of a woman who was a passenger on the Paris flight.
“I only have an apple,” the woman said, digging in her handbag and pulling out the fruit she received as an in-flight snack in business class.
Officer Caffery reaches into a pouch full of pepperoni treats on her waist and slipped one to Izzy as a reward, and then marked the woman’s declaration card to notify officers to search all her bags. The woman was led off to a special inspection area and her male travel companion waved his arms angrily.
Off to the side, James Armstrong, a Customs supervisor in the agricultural canine unit, smiled.
“The public knows about drugs, and now post-9/11 about bombs,” he said. “But when it comes to food, they all say, ‘It’s just an apple.’ Yes but it’s coming in from another country.”
Kennedy is the busiest airport in the United States for international flights, and about 400,000 passengers a month use Terminal 4. About 2,000 bags pass through every hour and what Izzy can nose out during a quick ramble through the baggage area, would take human inspectors hours to find by opening and searching bags, said Mr. Armstrong, who rattles off a litany of import trends.
Passengers go to elaborate lengths to conceal the goods, Mr. Armstrong said, including dousing items with perfume, or packing it with car deodorizers. People have been known to wrap sausages around their legs or torsos.
Inspectors said that nothing surprised them anymore. They have seized dried deer penises from China, lemon trees, roots and all, from Italy, goat heads from Haiti, and skinned pig heads for soup, from China.
Izzy’s size and demeanor make her ideal for working in crowded areas – as well as her acute sense of smell, which is honed by constant training. At one point on Thursday, Izzy sniffed the lingering odor in a woman’s purse of a sandwich the woman said she had eaten hours before.
Seized items are brought to the steel table in the grinding room, which has a large opening in the middle leading down to a grinder that pulverizes and heats confiscated goods. Contraband meat is incinerated. Samples are analyzed under microscopes at a nearby counter and sometimes sent to a lab for analysis.
A flight from Moscow had arrived, and Izzy detected apples in the bag of a Russian woman who had arrived with her family for a vacation. Oleg Gelfand, a Customs agricultural specialist who speaks Russian, opened their bags and pulled out plastic bags of herbs. Medicinal herbs, the family said. Then he pulled out cans in bubble wrap. The salmon caviar was O.K., he said, but the potted beef was seized.
Another Russian passenger’s bag was opened and an inspector pulled out a pair of white figure skates. Inside were thick horse-meat sausages. Those were also seized.”
For the link, click here: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/18/cute-but-tough-with-a-nose-for-the-food-in-your-bags/