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How dogs can protect us from African swine fever and other invaders

As we finally turn the corner on COVID-19, I’m sure you’ll be dismayed to learn that we have another problem headed toward the US. African swine fever has devastated sub-Saharan Africa, China, Mongolia and Viet Nam. has entered the European Union and could be heading to the US.

Fortunately, the United States can prevent it from spreading to the US, thanks to a couple of bipartisan US senators and the dogs they support.

On March 1, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a press conference in Newnan, Georgia, by Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock. There I met an unusual ally in the fight against African Swine Fever: the “Beagle Brigade”.

Fortunately, African swine fever is not fatal to humans. But it is highly lethal to pigs, killing many and forcing farmers to cull their herds to protect the uninfected. As my father grew up on a pig farm, I heard how difficult it is for these farmers to face such a deadly enemy.

I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about the beagle. My wife and I had one when we lived in a trailer park in Tallahassee, and “Emily” was the most undisciplined creature I have ever met. But the folks at the USDA National Detector Dog Training Center showed me that these folks at the Department of Agriculture know how to train a beagle to effectively find a host of invasive pests.

USDA Under Secretary Jennifer Moffitt told me all about other problems these beagles, along with other dogs, including Jack Russell terriers and yellow Labradors, can pick up. There’s the spotted lanternfly that came from China to Pennsylvania and has gone after the eastern and western coasts, attacking everything from forests to fruit orchards. Then there is the Brown Tree Snake, who tries to infiltrate through the cargo. His bite is dangerous for children and has wiped out the populations of birds and other species that he has gone after animals of all kinds.

“These dogs are well-trained, motivated by food and know their sense of smell,” Moffitt added.

“If they’re so cool, why are we only doing this now?” I asked. I later learned that these beagles and other dogs have been funded in large part by USDA user fees, not by Congress. The Beagle Brigade Act will provide legislative funding to expand the program and allow it to be implemented on a broader scale, a must in today’s cargo-based global economy. Additionally, these cute canines are less threatening than the larger types of dogs typically employed for law enforcement duties.

I also found out from USDA handlers that these dogs serve for almost a decade and are often adopted by their handlers upon retirement, before any formal adoption process occurs.

Democratic Senator Warnock is not the only one pushing for this. He has a strong co-sponsor in Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa. At the press conference, when I asked the Georgia senator about strategies for breaking “Build Back Better” into smaller, more manageable popular bills, he replied, “I’m interested in more the positive results than the process. He documented the positive “shot in the arm” of the American Bailout, the expanded results of the tax on children, the reduction of child poverty, and finding ways to provide health care to residents of states that refused to expand. Medicaid.

But it is clear that this bipartisan “Beagle Brigade Act” will be a key piece of legislation that will help keep our agricultural economy and environment from “going to waste.”

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at La Grange University in La Grange, Ga. He can be contacted at jtures@lagrange.edu. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.

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