MEET Izzy the Labrador, one of the dogs helping to keep Australia free from foot and mouth disease.
The Izzy biosecurity detector dog is part of the Sydney Airport biosecurity team where some of the recent detections of products containing fragments of African swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease viruses have been found.
The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources sources detector dogs from the Australian Border Force Breeding Program. This program provides a reliable source of suitable Labradors who then undergo an eight week Biosafety Detector Dog training program. Izzy was born on October 16, 2016 and completed our training program in May 2018.
In a single month, Izzy can make over 100 detections. In January 2019, Izzy made 109 detections of undeclared biosecurity risk material, including fresh and meat products, which were then confiscated by our biosecurity officers. This included 31 different meat products such as beef, pork, poultry and salami.
Every dog has its day, and Izzy recently had his biggest – detecting over ten kilograms of undeclared and illegally imported fruit and meat products in a passenger’s bags.
Biosecurity officer Lyn O’Connell said the passenger put Australia at risk because meat products can carry various diseases, including foot-and-mouth disease.
“Izzy was routinely sniffing when she answered a passenger’s bag and our biosecurity officers quickly found out what had gotten her nose up.
“They found nearly 8 kilos of nashi pears, 2 kilos of oranges, 325 grams of chicken meat and over 2 kilos of pork products including pork, sausage and trotters,” said Mrs. O’Connell said.
“These types of meat products can transmit diseases that would be devastating for Australia, including African swine fever (ASF) and foot-and-mouth disease.
“Further research found that the passenger was also carrying 650 grams of nashi pears in another bag,” she said.
“There is no excuse if you bring these or other items that pose a biosecurity risk to Australia.
“Either leave them at home or don’t be sorry and just declare them.”
The risk of foot-and-mouth disease and ASF is real
If it did make it to Australia, foot-and-mouth disease could cost the Australian economy billions and take a decade to eradicate. Fragments of foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever have recently been detected in pork products intercepted at Australian airports and postal centers, so the risk is real.
The fresh fruit in the passenger bag may have carried diseases and pests such as citrus canker and fruit fly. Both of these could have a devastating impact on Australia’s horticultural industries.
The goods were destroyed and the passenger received a notice of violation.
Ms O’Connell said the dogs do a great job of detecting potential risk items, but every passenger traveling to Australia has an obligation to abide by our terms.
“It can save you time and money, while also ensuring that you are doing your part to keep our country free from pests and deadly diseases.”
For more information on items that should not be brought to Australia, visit agriculture.gov.au/traveling.