Dy­namic dogs de­fend­ing our bor­ders

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By ANNA LOREN

There’s a new set of paws on deck at the Auck­land biose­cu­rity cen­tre.

Bos­ton, a three-year-old springer spaniel, has joined the ranks at the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries fa­cil­ity in Man­gere.

The pooch is the coun­try’s first ‘‘in­cur­sion de­tec­tor’’ dog and is be­ing spe­cially trained to sniff out pests such as plants, lizards and ex­otic birds.

Un­like biose­cu­rity de­tec­tor dogs, which in­ter­cept food and live an­i­mals at air­ports, ports and mail cen­tres, Bos­ton’s job is to lo­cate pests ‘‘if they do slip through the border’’, se­nior ca­nine han­dler Alan Wil­lox says.

Biose­cu­rity dogs can­not be used for the task be­cause they could be dis­tracted by food odours while work­ing in the field.

‘‘His first job is to find a par­tic­u­lar weed that’s known to ex­ist in pock­ets around Auck­land,’’ Wil­lox says.

‘‘It’s in a wider en­vi­ron­ment, it’s not in­doors, it’s not in an air­port, so it’s a new set of skills.’’

Bos­ton was orig­i­nally a pet but came to the cen­tre af­ter Wil­lox spot­ted him for adop­tion on Trade Me.

Many of the coun­try’s 40 de­tec­tor dogs have been found through the site – Wil­lox has bought two bea­gles and two labradors from there in the past month.

He looks for dogs with ‘‘a high play drive and a high food drive’’ and Bos­ton fits the bill, he says.

The ca­nine is be­ing trained us­ing lizards loaned from Rep­tile Park in Rod­ney.

It’s hoped he will be joined by another in­cur­sion dog in the near fu­ture.

Bos­ton’s ar­rival is just one of the moves be­ing cel­e­brated by the biose­cu­rity cen­tre.

An 18-month project to re­vamp the de­tec­tor dog pro­gramme has also seen 10 new ken­nels built at the cen­tre, which is about a kilo­me­tre from Auck­land In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

That’s a boost to the pro­gramme be­cause 15 to 20 pup­pies need to be bred each year to re­place re­tir­ing dogs, ca­nine han­dler Kirsty Ansell says.

The two new­est ad­di­tions, nine­week-old Dar­cie and Dar­win, are about to head out to pri­vate puppy walk­ers be­fore begin­ning their train­ing.

The num­ber of dogs and han­dlers work­ing at the coun­try’s bor­ders has also swelled to 40 each – up from 32 last year.

Among the new­est re­cruits are bea­gle Clara and her han­dler Lucy Tel­far, who be­gan work last month.

In Clara’s first week on the job she sniffed out plant ma­te­rial in a bag at the air­port, which led to a find of a num­ber of high-risk items.

As a re­sult, im­mi­gra­tion officials re­fused the pas­sen­ger en­try into the coun­try and she was sent back to Viet­nam.

Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour news.co.nz and click on Lat­est Edi­tion to see Bos­ton and Clara in ac­tion.

Leisure time: Black labradors Fern and Frankie explore their pen. De­tec­tor dogs work for four days and then have four days’ rest.

Top dog: Se­nior ca­nine han­dler Al­lan Wil­lox says both dogs and han­dlers need to be en­er­getic to cope well in the role.

New nose: Nine-week-old Dar­cie is one of the new­est biose­cu­rity de­tec­tor dogs in wait­ing. The Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries es­ti­mates it costs about $30,000 to breed and train each puppy.

Pho­tos: ANNA LOREN

Trail blazer: Below, Springer spaniel Bos­ton is the coun­try’s first in­cur­sion de­tec­tor dog. Fruity find: Clara hits pay dirt – a pair of or­anges.

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