Published online at GlobalTVEdmonton.com on January 31, 2011.
Linda Hoang, Global News: Monday, January 31, 2011
Beagle brings specialized sniffing skills to EIA
He spends his days sniffing luggage at the Edmonton International Airport and he’s northern Alberta’s first line of defence against plants and food that could carry disease into Canada.
Max is a four-year-old, food, plant and animal inspection dog for the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) — the only airport detector dog in Edmonton.
It’s up to Max to help ensure no potentially harmful, undeclared items enter the country.
“He’s trained to find pork, beef, chicken, soil, plants, bulbs, apples and he finds apricots too,” Iris Zelter, a border services officer with the CBSA and Max’s partner, told Global Edmonton on Monday.
“Anything that can introduce a disease or pest into canada is what we’re concerned about coming into Canada.”
Zelter has been working solely with the inspection beagle for the last two and a half years.
Max was responsible for sniffing out three Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoises that a traveler was attempting to smuggle into Edmonton last year.
“He’s invaluable,” Zelter said of her partner. “He’s not interested in being petted or playing, he just wants to work.”
The beagle has also discovered meat from Africa, tulip bulbs from the Netherlands, and more.
Zelter and Max spend each day checking flights that could carry the most “high risk products” like connecting flights from Seattle and Minneapolis and especially overseas flights coming from London.
He goes along the baggage carousels, inspecting luggage coming in from about six to nine flights per shift.
In most cases the pooch will immediately sit when he finds an odour he’s trained to find, but his detection behaviour changes depending on the product.
“If it’s a meat product, he really likes the odour and he’ll spend a little bit longer smelling,” Zelter explained. “Sometimes there will just be a little bit of a behaviour change. His head will snap back, he’ll spend some extra time. Those are the bags that I just want to investigate just to make sure there isn’t something in there that might not be allowed to come in.”
Zelter is reminding travelers to declare items they’re bringing into the country.
“We don’t expect passengers to know what they can or can’t bring into Canada but they just have to be aware to declare what they’re bringing in and allow us the opportunity to check to make sure what they’re bringing in is something that is allowed to come into Canada.”
Travelers don’t get penalized for bringing in declared items but those who don’t declare can be fined up to $1,300.
There are over 70 detector dog teams across Canada.
The EIA destroys about 1,200 pounds of banned products each month.
With files from Laurel Clark