He sniffs each item carefully, looking for anything he can flag as suspicious. He examines boxes, crates, and luggage… on a mission to protect the Sacramento area’s agriculture.
In the farm-to-fork capital of the world, Dozer, a rescued Labrador retriever mix, is an employee of the California Department of Agriculture, but works specifically with Sacramento County’s Department of Agriculture. His job is to sniff produce and plants and non-indigenous pests that could harm agriculture and the environment. From spotted mangoes to exotic plants, Dozer is an expert at all types of plant life.
The success of our detector dog team is due to the effective working partnership between Sacramento County and Yolo County. The detector dog and handler are provided by Sacramento County and the two human inspectors are Yolo County Inspectors. “We have an extremely talented handler and inspection team waiting to search the commodities that arrive each day,” said Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner Juli Jensen. “With one of the best dogs and dog-handlers in California, coupled with the two Yolo County inspectors who open and inspect the packages Dozer flags, we have a perfect team.”
All 13 dogs in California’s Agricultural Detector Dog Team Program are vital to protecting California agriculture. The counties of Fresno, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego each have dog teams. An insect can travel across the state and devastate plants in multiple geographic areas. The dogs are becoming more accurate, and in recent years, the state has seen fewer parcel alerts, but more actionable pest finds. This means that each time the dogs make an alert, it is more likely they found something that could cause economic or ecological harm. In their first six months on the job, this team surpassed the best 12-month period on record for pest interception, finding 134 different pests. And as an extra value, each dog in the program is a rescue dog.
In the last six months, Dozer alerted on several packages containing plant material. On eight occasions, the county inspectors discovered that the plants had some kind of disease or invasive pest. One of Dozer’s finds was canker disease on a shipment of lemons; this bacterial disease devastated the Florida citrus industry in prior years, and according to the University of Florida, cost Florida $3.63 billion in lost revenue and an additional 6,611 jobs. Dozer and his team aim to keep the disease out of California.
Often packages are shipped unintentionally across the country with small pest hitchhikers. These uninvited guests can be dangerous to agriculture and the environment and it is essential that we—along with the help of our trusty canine—be vigilant gatekeepers to protect the nation’s number one agricultural state.
Writer: Kaitlin Bane, Communication and Media Intern