LA County’s has two new members to the canine workforce. They are Ebony, a lab mix and Tahoe, a purebred Labrador. They work with inspectors Hung Truong and Rogelio Carranza in the new Agricultural Detector Dog Program. Ebony and Tahoe can sniff out illicit produce.
Ebony and Tahoe are part of the California Dog Teams whose purpose is to inspect products entering into the state. Each team is trained to inspect unmarked agricultural parcels for unwanted pests, diseases and other harmful pests that could potentially pose a threat to our states economy.
Both dogs were trained at the USDA National Detector Dog Training Center in Georgia. Here they learned to scratch at boxes filled with fruits and vegetables. Currently they spend most of their time at FedEx warehouses finding those boxes full of homegrown fruits and vegetables that might contain un-welcomed pests. They are planning to expand their inspections in the future to include UPS and the United States Post Office.
Photo courtesy of County of Los Angeles Agricultural
Commissioner/Weights & Measures.
For Los Angeles, the idea behind this detection is to stop pests like the fruit fly from coming into LA County. An infestation could cost California and our city/county millions of dollars in crop and job losses as well as an increased use of pesticides.
In March Ebony detected an unmarked box full of dandelion greens, bok choy, dill, green lettuce and parsley. This seemed to be an innocent mixture of tasty greens but upon scrutiny there appeared to be some unwanted trimmings including ants, aphids, mites, slugs, wasps and moths. One of the insects was a Q-rated pest. California Department of Food and Agricultural has a system of rating pests. A Q-rated pest means the pest is subject to some sort of action such as eradication, quarantine, containment or refection of shipments. In this case the shipment was destroyed by freezing.
The reward for their work or what Truong calls the “jackpot” is four treats and a belly rub.
A special thanks to to Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky for turning me on to this story through his Weekly Web Flash and Blog.
For more info on Agricultural Pests and Dog Detection Teams Visit:
County of Los Angeles Agricultural Commissioner/Weights & Measures
California “Detection” Dog Team Website