• Biosecurity detector dog, Vespa, awarded at Royal Easter Show

    April 1, 2024


    Biosecurity dog Vespa and her handler, Perrie, after the canine was awarded at the Royal Easter Show

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    A detector dog from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s (DAFF) is officially one of Australia’s leading service animals after receiving an award at the Sydney Royal Easter Show today.

    Vespa, a six-year-old black Labrador Retriever based in Sydney, was awarded The Australasian Animal Registry Service Dog Award. The accolade is recognition of her significant achievements in intercepting biosecurity risk items.

    In 2023, Vespa detected 1,300 risk items across 129 commodities. This record makes her the most successful biosecurity detector dog in the nation.

    Royal Easter Show: NSW service dog award

    Adam Fennessy PSM, Secretary of DAFF, congratulated Vespa and her handler, Perrie, during the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW’s Canine Hero Awards at the Show.

    “It takes a special type of person to train and work with our detector dogs,” he says.

    “Perrie and Vespa have displayed exemplary dedication to keeping Australia free from exotic pests and diseases.

    “The 2024 Service Dog Award is also a wonderful acknowledgement of the dedication of our biosecurity detector dog teams and the role they play in protecting Australia’s unique biosecurity status.

    “Vespa’s results show why detector dogs are highly regarded as a detection tool, and this year she sniffed out finds like beef burgers and smaller items, such as seeds.”

    Why biosecurity detector dog handler is a great job!

    Perrie has been a handler for just two years. She credits TV show Border Security as her inspiration to become a detection dog handler.

    “As a handler, I can pursue my passion for animals and environmental conservation by protecting Australia from exotic pests and diseases,” Perrie says.

    “I feel a great sense of pride, celebrating the dogs’ successes and seeing the dogs reach new heights with their training.

    “I am very lucky to have such a wonderful colleague in Vespa, as she consistently brings a hundred percent to the work she does.”

    When she’s not hot on the heels of biosecurity risks, Vespa likes to put up her paws and unwind.

    “After a hard day’s work, Vespa likes to sit in the sun and play with her toy or have herself a tummy rub,” Perrie says. “When the weather is warm, Vespa loves to swim in the pool to cool off.”

    In the 2022-23 budget, the Australian Government committed $11.7 million to bolster Australia’s biosecurity detector dog capability. It will also strengthen Australia’s biosecurity system by providing 20 additional detector dogs and 20 additional detector dog handlers.

    In 2023, biosecurity detector dog Vespa intercepted 739 biosecurity risk items at Sydney International Airport. She also detected 577 at the Sydney Gateway mail centre. Items including:

    278 items that could have carried food and mouth disease, a serious animal disease that is currently not in Australia but if an outbreak were to occur it would cost the Australian economy an estimated $80 billion.

    123 items that could have carried African swine fever, a virus that affects pigs.

    29 items that could have carried the hitchhiker pest Khapra Beetle, a national priority plant pest that can infest more than 100 different commodities.

    Facts about biosecurity detector dogs:

    • DAFF has 50 biosecurity detector dogs, 52 handlers, and eight Technical Supervisors working across the country.
    • Biosecurity Detector Dogs deploy to screen incoming passengers and goods in Australia’s international airports, seaports, and mail centres.
    • The canines detect nine target odour groups. This which translates to more than 200 biosecurity risk commodities.
    • On average, the dogs intercept up to 45,000 risk items nationally each year.
    • The three most common items the detector dogs find are seeds, fruit, and meat.
    • Labradors make up Australia’s entire biosecurity detector dog program. The breed is known to have an extraordinary sense of smell, are co-operative and gentle with people. Labradors also possess extreme hunt, food and retrieve drives. Their tall stature and agility make it easy for them to screen larger items at airports, seaports, and mail centres.


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