Hawaii became the first State in the nation to use beagle dogs to assist Plant Quarantine Inspectors, Hawaii Department of Agriculture, in detecting and intercepting prohibited and restricted items.
The Beagle Canine Unit was formed in 1989 to screen passenger baggage, express parcels and cargo arriving in Hawaii from the continental United States for the presence of agricultural products. The inspector-handlers use dogs trained to sniff out plants, cut flowers, fresh produce, soil, salt and fresh water (for the presence of live fish and seafood), as well as other live animals such as snakes through their keen sense of smell.
The beagle was chosen because of it's relatively small size, even disposition and puppy-like appearance. These traits are important since the dogs are used in public areas of the airport.
The beagles have been a
great help in preventing the introduction of pest species
into Hawaii. Some of the items the dogs have found
include fresh corn from the midwest infested with the
European corn borer, aquatic plants from Texas infested
with leeches, banana plants which originated from Puerto
Rico and a box containing 12 Tokay geckos. Many of the
items found by the Beagle Canine Unit are not declared by
passengers or are sent in unmarked boxes and could have
only been found through the use of the dogs.