Rescue dogs sniff out illegal imports

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 8:50pm

For dog lovers, the sheer number of unwanted animals that have to be put to sleep every year is an ongoing source of heart-ache. But for some special pups, a reprieve from the shelter also leads to a life of hard and rewarding work, work that helps protect all of us.

Federal Agent Linus and his handler Rusty Adams have been patrolling the baggage claim at Hartsfield International for 5 years. Linus is a beagle trained to sniff out prohibited items being brought into the country, items like live plants and fruits which may carry dangerous crop diseases into our farms.

Linus is a member of one of the 115 Beagle Brigade teams across the country that confiscate about 75,000 items annually. Before these dogs could call America's airports their homes, many of them, like Linus, didn't have a home at all.

Linus was recruited from an animal shelter, selected by the National Dog Detector Training Center to join the Brigade. Training takes about 6 months. The dogs are trained to think of their jobs as "hide and seek" games where the passengers have hidden the "prizes" in their luggage, and the dog gets a reward for finding the items. The program works well: "They search hard -- these dogs work really hard," said dog recruiter Mike Smith.

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