BIOSECURITY detector dogs continued their outstanding work last year, screening incoming passengers and goods for biosecurity risk items at airports, mail centres and sea ports.

Head of biosecurity at the Department of agriculture, water and the environment, Lyn O’Connell, said detector dogs are a vital part of Australia’s frontline defence against pests and diseases.

“Our detector dogs were a howling success again last year, intercepting more than 56,000 biosecurity risk items across our airports and mail centres,” Ms O’Connell said.

“Any of these items could have carried a pest or disease that could impact on our industries, environment, plant, animal and human health.”

One of the more interesting dog finds included chicken eggs containing formed embryos that were concealed in a bag of peanuts and fish stuffed with pork meat.

More than 4,000 undeclared meat products were also detected by the detector dogs last year, including 1,800 undeclared pork products. These products are a significant risk, because they can carry African swine fever, which has the potential to ruin Australia’s pork industry.


“In 2019-20 we have also seen three visa cancellations for serious breaches of Australian biosecurity laws, all thanks to referrals from our biosecurity detector dogs,” Ms O’Connell said.

“To help manage seasonal or emerging pest and disease risks, we are looking at ways to modernise the detector dog fleet.

“For instance, in Brisbane we have trialled the use of detector dogs for the screening of imported cars to detect brown marmorated stink bug, which is a significant horticultural pest.

“In 2019 we deployed dogs to Cairns and Darwin in response to the rising risk of ASF and we also increased screening at other airports and mail centres.

“With risks like ASF and BMSB on the move globally, the dogs will continue to play a vital role in managing the significant biosecurity threats Australia faces.”

Key facts and stats:

  • Detector dogs find up to 9,000 biosecurity risk items during their working life.
  • The three most common items the detector dogs find are meat, fruit and seeds.
  • There are currently 43 biosecurity detector dogs working for the department, including 39 operational detector dogs and 4 novice dogs.