PHILADELPHIA – At first glance, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s agriculture-detecting beagles look like adorable little pets who greet international travelers to the United States. But that cuteness belies the very serious role that CBP’s Beagle Brigade plays at Philadelphia International Airport to protect our nation’s agricultural interests and economy.
That mission was on display on Friday when CBP agriculture detector dog Harrie detected nearly 44 pounds of beef, uncooked rice, fruits, vegetables, leaves and seeds in the checked baggage of a couple who arrived from Bangladesh. The couple denied possessing any agriculture products during their primary inspection, but Harrie easily sniffed it out.
These seemingly harmless products, however, pose a very real threat of introducing foreign animal or plant diseases, invasive insects, or federal noxious weeds into our agriculture and ecology.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, uncooked rice is prohibited from importing in passenger baggage from countries infested with Khapra beetle. Khapra beetle is one of world’s most destructive pests of grain products and seeds. If Khapra beetle establishes in the United States, it could have a crippling effect on our ability to export grain products. Additionally, unpermitted beef products from regions that have experienced episodes of animal diseases are prohibited from the U.S. Previous outbreaks across the globe indicate that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, is costly to eradicate.
Last year, CBP agriculture canines detected 120,269 prohibited items at CBP Ports of Entry across the country, and 96,450 items through June this year. For context, CBP agriculture detector dogs intercepted 153,620 prohibited items in 2019 before COVID-19 suspended international travel. Read more about how CBP employs canines to protect our nation’s vital agricultural resources against diseases, and invasive insects and weeds.
This latest seizure continued K9 Harrie’s recent string of impressive detection successes.
On August 10, Harrie alerted to the baggage of a student arriving from Kenya whose mother sent him off to school with nearly 15 pounds of vegetables, and on August 1, Harrie alerted to the baggage of another traveler from Bangladesh. Inside his baggage CBP agriculture specialists discovered about 19 pounds of prohibited beef, pork, and fruit.
Earlier, Harrie’s cheery canine comrade Bowey detected more than 60 packets of propagative seeds in the baggage of yet another traveler from Bangladesh while Harrie discovered 12 pounds of unknown fresh leaves and three pounds of powdered chicken bouillon packed in six different checked bags belonging to a traveler from Nigeria.
All seized products were destroyed.
Both Harrie and Bowey have served on CBP’s Philadelphia Beagle Brigade for less than one year, but they routinely earn results like seasoned vets.
“Canines are a critical component to protecting our nation’s agricultural industries from the accidental or deliberate exposure to diseases or pests because the scent of travelers’ forbidden fruit can’t escape our Beagle Brigade,” said Joseph Martella, Area Port Director for CBP’s Area Port of Philadelphia. “Customs and Border Protection strongly encourages all travelers to know what they can and cannot pack in their baggage before returning to or visiting the United States. For those who try to smuggle prohibited products anyway, know that our agriculture detector dogs will be very happy to point those products out for CBP agriculture specialists to seize.”
CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection, and they inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes being imported to the United States. They are on our nation’s frontlines to ensure our nation’s economic vitality by protecting our vital agricultural resources.
During a typical day last year, CBP agriculture specialists across the nation seized 4,552 prohibited plant, meat, animal byproducts, and soil, and intercepted 319 insect pests at U.S. ports of entry.
With international travel picking up post-COVID and the busy summer travel season, CBP urges all travelers to visit CBP’s Travel website to ‘know before they go’ and learn what products that are prohibited or inadmissible to bring to the United States.
CBP's border security mission is led at our nation’s Ports of Entry by CBP officers and agriculture specialists from the Office of Field Operations. CBP screens international travelers and cargo and searches for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, invasive weeds and pests, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation’s safety and economic vitality.
Follow the Director of CBP’s Baltimore Field Office on Twitter at @DFOBaltimore for breaking news, current events, human interest stories and photos, and CBP’s Office of Field Operations on Instagram at @cbpfieldops.