Sydney says bye bye biosecurity beagles
The last biosecurity beagles at Sydney International Airport have said their farewells after years of service safeguarding Australia from exotic pests and diseases that could affect our way of life.
Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said beagles had served Australia well for more than 20 years as one of the surveillance technologies used to protect our agricultural industries, economy and environment.
"Our detector dog programme started in 1992, and since then beagles have been at our international airports sniffing out prohibited items such as seeds, plants, vegetables, fruit, eggs and meat with their keen sense of smell," Minister Joyce said.
"Now incoming passengers will be greeted by a labrador instead of a beagle.
"Travellers are sometimes unaware that plant and animal products, if not declared to biosecurity officers, could have a huge impact on our nation.
"We need travellers to think about what they're bringing into Australia, recognise the impact it could have and truthfully fill out the Incoming Passenger Card—which is a legal document.
"The five beagles we're honouring—TJ, Wally, Sharne, Axel and Andy—have all served Australia well.
"Collectively they've seized 29,799 items, weighing in at nearly 7 tonnes combined, from more than 100 countries.
"As a result of their sharp noses the five beagles have been responsible for 91 Quarantine Infringement Notices issued to travellers arriving in Australia."
Minister Joyce emphasised the important role travellers played in keeping Australia free from harmful pests and diseases.
"Managing Australia's biosecurity system to protect our plant, animal and human health is a big and important job," Minister Joyce said.
"Each year more than 17 million international passengers arrive in our airports, and our dedicated biosecurity staff screened 8.7 million of those in 2013–14—that's 24,000 a day.
"Our biosecurity beagles have potentially saved Australia from exotic diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease and equine influenza as well as countless others.
"These farewells are significant, as TJ, Wally, Sharne, Axel and Andy are the last working beagles at Sydney International Airport.
"As our last beagles retire, we're in the process of moving our canine workforce toward labradors, who are a more readily available and versatile breed, and are more suited to work across a range of locations.
"Andy, Wally and Axel will be using their expertise to help train new detector dog handlers up in Brisbane, while TJ and Sharne will enjoy some well deserved rest and relaxation in retirement with former handlers."
Photo of Minister Joyce with Department of Agriculture dog handlers David Lister and Clare OShannessy and beagle TJ
***Hi-res version, as well as additional photos and profiles of each dog mentioned, are available on request ***