USDA dogs sniffing out African Swine Fever

By Aidan Fortune contact

- Last updated on GMT

US sniffer dogs help protect borders against ASF
The US avoided a potential case of African Swine Fever (ASF) when one of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) trained detector dog sniffed out a roasted pig head in a passenger’s bag.

The dog, Hardy, found the pig head in a bag at Hartsfield-Jackson International airport earlier this month. He was trained at the National Detector Dog Training Center in Newnan, Georgia, which is designed and equipped to train detector dog teams, like Hardy’s, to safeguard American agriculture.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine program and the Department of Homeland Security’s US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) use detector dog teams, known as the Beagle Brigade, to search for prohibited agricultural products at major US ports of entry (airports and land border crossings), mail and cargo facilities. The teams detect prohibited agricultural products that can carry foreign pests and diseases that threaten US agriculture and forests.

“African Swine Fever is a devastating, deadly disease affecting all kinds of pigs, both domestic and wild – and keeping our pork industry safe is a top priority,”​ said Sonny Perdue, US Secretary of Agriculture. “Recently, our collaboration with CBP proved successful when a USDA-trained detector dog intercepted a roasted pig head in traveller baggage from Ecuador. The quick work of a beagle and the CBP staff prevented a potential animal health issue and further highlighted the need to be vigilant in safeguarding the US against foreign animal diseases.”

To prevent ASF from entering the country, USDA has put in place a series of safeguards such as: collaborating with states, industry and producers to ensure everyone follows on-farm biosecurity and best practices; restricting imports of pork and pork products from affected countries; and working with CBP staff at ports of entry to train their inspection dogs, as well as increasing screening vigilance to pay particular attention to passengers and products arriving from affected countries.

USDA is committed to working closely with the swine industry and producers to ensure strict biosecurity procedures are in place and being followed on all swine farms.

“Because there’s no treatment or vaccine available for this disease, we must work together to prevent this disease from entering the United States in order to best protect our farmers, our consumers and our natural resources,” ​said Perdue. “Good biosecurity is key to protecting pigs from any disease. We know the swine industry has many biosecurity resources available for their producers, so it’s just a matter of making sure everyone follows the guidance, every day, every time. Our goal is to never have to respond to African Swine Fever.”

USDA is also actively readying and planning its response, should the disease ever be found in the US, by working with states and industry to test response mechanisms on a regular basis and planning to increase the testing capacity of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network labs for ASF.

Related topics: Safety & Legislation, United States, Pork

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1 comment

Risk of African swine fever from roasted pig head

Posted by Mary Louise Penrith,

I am genuinely impressed that the dog has been trained to detect meat products in luggage because they can pose a real threat for disease introduction. I would, however, like to reassure you that the roasted pig head in the luggage from Ecuador would not have posed any risk of ASF unless the traveller had brought it to Ecuador from an affected country and then travelled with it to the USA (unlikely). All of the countries in the Americas, including Ecuador, are free of ASF (it was eradicated from Brazil, the only mainland country in the Americas ever to have been affected, by 1984). Furthermore, roasting would destroy the ASF virus, but only if it was thorough, so one could not rely on that. Anyway, the dog is certainly doing good work, you could call this a practice run.

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