Border security is a big job. There are so many things, intentional or not, that people try to bring into the US that have the potential to do so much harm.

For this reason, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection and other state and local government departments have turned to beagles.

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The “Beagle Brigade” are teams of beagles from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that sniff out plants and animals that could carry disease into the U.S.

“Beagle Brigade” member Hardy’s official photo. (Photo credit: Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
“Beagle Brigade” member Hardy’s official photo. (Photo credit: Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
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This program is sponsored by the USDA and APHIS but is paid for with user fees from travelers. These fees can fluctuate with the market meaning there isn’t a steady stream of funding for the program.

Senator Joni Ernst and Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock are leading a bipartisan effort to get federal funding for the schools that train the beagles. Senator Ernst spoke with Iowa Agribusiness Network about her bill on the issue.

“So, I do have a bill that would provide appropriated dollars from Congress to the Beagle Brigade to make sure that we keep their funding steady, and that those detector dogs are on the job consistently,” said Ernst.

The bill is co-sponsored by Senator Warnock because the national training facility for the beagles is in Newnan, Georgia.

There is a lot that goes into training these dogs.

“Anytime you have a service animal or law enforcement canine, you have to have a lot of training,” said Ernst. “And that's what these detector dogs go through is extensive training to be able to find and literally root out those types of pests or diseases.”

With cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza hitting Iowa and African Swing Fever approaching our shores, this program acts as a line of defense for our agriculture operations.

Hardy, a member of the “Beagle Brigade,” was trained by USDA’s National Detector Dog Center in Newnan, GA. (Photo credit: Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Hardy, a member of the “Beagle Brigade,” was trained by USDA’s National Detector Dog Center in Newnan, GA. (Photo credit: Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection
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The last time highly pathogenic avian influenza surged through Iowa, was Ernst’s first year in the U.S. Senate.

“It impacted our growers and our farmers significantly. It was just a disastrous time. We had great help through, of course, IDALS in the state of Iowa, our Ag and Land Services. We had great help through APHIS at USDA, but we have to take those lessons learned and like I said, shore up some of the gaps that exist in current programs,” said Ernst.

Having more dogs in the program could help catch swine fever from entering the U.S. before it gets here.

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