17 Mar 2015

'Beagles on steroids' on biosecurity patrol

12:01 pm on 17 March 2015

Border control authorities are considering super-sizing detector dogs to find imported pests and other biosecurity risks.

The Ministry of Primary Industries is trying out two Harrier Hounds which are like a bigger, taller version of the beagles staff usually use.

One of the trainee harrier hounds

One of the trainee harrier hounds Photo: SUPPLIED

Brett Hickman, MPI detection technology manager, said the harriers have great drive, excellent noses for the food and plant materials - and are also good with people.

"I've heard them described as 'beagles on steroids'," he said.

"The extra height would come in handy with passengers carrying backpacks or with baggage stacked on trolleys. Reaching up to sniff baggage can put strain on the hind legs of beagles."

The New Zealand Hunts' Association (NZHA) is the New Zealand custodian for the harrier breed.

President Andy Morison said the association was pleased its sport could make a contribution to help manage New Zealand's biosecurity system, which he said was crucially important to the primary export sector.

MPI recently announced a range of measures to make it harder for materials containing fruit fly to get past the border, introducing 100 percent screening of passengers and baggage by detector dogs.

MPI currently uses beagles and labradors as biosecurity detector dogs. It runs a beagle breeding-programme.