By County News Center
San Diego, CA–A detector dog has retired from his work with the County’s Agriculture, Weights and Measures Department.
County staff organized a small retirement ceremony on March 23 at the Waterfront Park to acknowledge Podder’s four years of service. His former colleague, Yeti, the County’s other detector dog, and Venus, a retired detector dog, and other officials attended to give him a pat on the back, a scratch on the head, and lots of treats and toys.
“In honor of Podder’s service, I’d like to present this Service Award for four years of County service,” said Ha Dang, commissioner/sealer for Agriculture, Weights and Measures.
The Labrador and beagle mix has worked with his handler Kyle Moranton to intercept unmarked agricultural parcels that are shipped in violation of agricultural quarantine or contain unwanted plant pests including insects, diseases, and other harmful organisms to agriculture.
“He has a great nose,” Moranton said. “I’m going to miss him.”
Only 6-years-old, Podder is retiring due to a medical condition. He has since been adopted and is happy, Moranton said.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture Detector Dog Team program began in 2009. The dogs sniff and identify unmarked parcels, which are a high-risk pathway for significant pests to enter the states. Dog teams conduct inspections at parcel facilities such as UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service. Dogs are trained to alert on packages that contain agricultural material such as plants, cuttings, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and soil. Those packages are then opened and checked for insects, diseases, or quarantines.
Podder made 426 visits to parcel facilities, where he found 728 plants in unmarked parcels, including 137 rated insect pests capable of causing serious harm to agriculture or were questionable, Moranton said.
Another San Diego County agriculture inspector is now training to become a dog handler and will join the department in the summer with a new detector dog.