Graduation day for “bio-security legends”

Four months of intensive training has paid off for Lily, Ava, Ruby, Major and Sash.

They may look cute, but bio-security Tasmania’s latest staff members are a force to be reckoned with.

Beagles Ava, Lily, Sash, Major and Ruby were presented with their graduation certificates at AGFEST this morning, formally allowing them to begin work in the field.

Primary Industries and Water Minister Jeremy Rockliff sang the dog’s praises.

“These dogs had bleak futures. They were either abandoned by their owners or weren’t able to be cared for,” he said. “They’ve gone from having a bleak future to being bio-security legends.”

Three of the five dogs were rescued from a Beagle home in Victoria, saving them from being put down.

Trainer Rhonda Hall has been with them every step of the way.

“When they first arrived, they were totally feral. These dogs have come a long way, and that’s taken four months,” she said. “I’m so proud of them all.”

Ms Hall explained that Beagles make particularly good detector dogs because of their fantastic sense of smell, their intelligence and their love of the food rewards.

“They’re super intelligent, but it takes someone who understands that to know how to get it out of them. Otherwise, they just seem naughty. But if you can direct that into work, for instance, it works really well.”

The dogs will be sent to work at the Launceston and Hobart airports.

“With the 30 per cent increase we’ve seen in tourists to Tasmania, our bio-security risks increase too,” Mr Rockliff said.

“These dogs are on the front line, proecting our state from unwanted pests and diseases.”

The five new detector dogs allow both Launceston and Hobart airports to be monitored at all times, as previously, there weren’t enough dogs to fill all of the shifts.

Image: Erin Cooper

This piece was written for the official AGFEST News website. It was written from a pop-up newsroom on-site. You can view the original article here: http://www.agfest.com.au/news/2016/05/07/graduation-day-for-rescued-bio-security-dogs/

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