August 10, 2015

10/08/2015: Meet the dogs that protect Florida's agriculture

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Florida's US$120 billion agriculture industry would not be safe without the help of their canine assistants. 

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is showcasing its lesser-known staff members, who happen to be trained rescue dogs, which can detect invasive pests and disease. 

“Dogs’ unparalleled sense of smell makes them indispensable to multiple industries, including law enforcement and health care. Here at the department, our working dogs are an integral part of our early detection efforts to identify invasive pests and disease that threaten Florida’s agriculture industry,” says Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.

Florida has a warm climate, making it a haven for invasive pests and disease. Among the many tools used by the department to detect, monitor and eradicate pests and disease are five working dogs.

Let's get to know the defend Florida's agriculture industry: 

First there’s Audi, the five-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever who patrols parcel facilities in Orlando, Tampa and Miami. The highlight of this rescue dogs career was when he detected olive branches from California with fruits that contained Olive fruit fly larvae, one of the most damaging pests of olives. 

Bear, the four-year-old Labrador retriever, works in Miami to detect African land snails. African land snails are considered to be the most damaging snails in the world, consuming 500 types of plants, as well as posing a threat tot health as they carry rat lungworm, which can cause meningitis in humans and animals. 

Kojak is a six-year-old Labrador retriever who works across Florida to patrol parcel facilities, detecting invasive pests and disease, along with unauthorised plant material that may have been shipped to Florida. 

Sierra is three years old and, like her canine colleagues, is a Labrador retriever. She joins Bear in the mission to eradicate African snails.

Verde is a seven-year-old Labrador retriever who was rescued and recovered after being found in ill health. She has been trained to patrol parcel facilities to detect invasive pests and disease and works at postal facilities in Hollywood, Miami, Homestead and Miramar. 

The agriculture industry supports more than 2 million jobs and produces approximately 300 commodities. 

There are 47,740 farm operations in the state, covering more than 9.5 million acres of land. Invasive species cost Florida $100 million per year.

Read more HERE.

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