The Beagle Brigade:

Traduction en français ici, La Beagle Brigade

“A massive nose on four little legs”

The last two times I flew to Chicago International Airport, I saw these little cute dogs sniffing passengers handbags. The dog would always manage to catch a banana or some leftover food from the flight. What struck me and almost made me laugh was that the dogs coat said “Protecting American Agriculture”.

Those cute little dogs are extremely valuable for the Custom and Border Protection in American international airports. The Beagle dogs are specially trained to detect any unauthorized food that could carry disease and be a threat to American agriculture. Their small size and cuteness helps them move easily and almost unnoticed among those hordes of arriving passengers.

The dog sniffs the bags; and if it finds something, it will sit next to it moving its tail and will then move to the next bag after a treat. According to the Wikipedia article, “experienced beagles have a 90% success rate,  and can recognize almost 50 distinct smells”.

According to an article published on The American Dog Magazine, about 75,000 prohibited agricultural products are seized every year thanks to those dogs. The dogs have such a developed sense of smell that they can find a plant material packed with some shampoo!

At first, I thought that this was completely stupid because all I saw the beagle catch was a banana and some sandwich leftovers. So is this really useful? Did the meat in that sandwich really have some disease and did that banana have some dreadful fruit flies? “The Beagle Brigade” article on the American Dog Magazine states that: “Hall [Program Manager with the Canine Enforcement Program of the U.S. Custom and Border Patrol] said quite often passengers unknowingly bring prohibited items into the country, such as parents who have cut up an apple for their child to eat on the plane, or those bringing home delicious mangoes from their trip to South America. Most travelers don’t realize it is illegal to bring certain agricultural products into the United States, but the Beagle Brigade is always on duty to remind them.”

If most of the travelers are harmless why not just sniff the luggage before they get on the delivery ramp? Well, on the other hand, there are crazy people who bring interesting stuff. Such as a man who brought live snails from London or a women who had over 20 living birds in her bag… But are those animals that threatening? I guess it depends where they come from.

If I would have to make a non-rational statement, I would say keep the Beagle Brigade to sniff the passengers bags as they are too cute and I don’t mind seeing them around when I arrive on the American soil. On the other hand, without them, I could bring back some saucisson! More seriously, I think they are very useful for detecting illegal substances such as drugs, money, and firearms. But I am still a little dubious about their real need to get a banana from a passenger who wanted a breakfast on his way home.

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