The Beagle Brigade Act of 2023 is introduced
By: Sydney Sheffield
Earlier this month, United States Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the Beagle Brigade Act of 2023. The bipartisan bill would provide permanent authorization for the National Detector Dog Training Center, located in Newnan, Georgia. The bill was also introduced into the House by U.S. Representatives Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA-02), Drew Ferguson (R-GA-03), Dan Kildee (D-MI-08), and Adrian Smith (R-NE-03).
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Detector Dog Training Center creates a dog workforce known as the Beagle Brigade, trained to detect fruits, vegetables, and meats that could be a threat to US agriculture. The Beagle Brigade is sent to US ports of entry, such as airports, land border crossings, and mail and cargo facilities. The center extensively trains detector dogs and their U.S. Customs and Border Protection handlers to sniff out prohibited agricultural items that could carry foreign plant or animal pests and diseases into the United States.
“Permanently authorizing the National Detector Dog Training Center represents a much-needed commitment to safeguard America’s agriculture industry, a trillion-dollar contributor to our country’s economy. The Beagle Brigade and their human handlers are on the front line, protecting our nation from foreign pests and diseases which could otherwise run rampant, damaging our agricultural production and overall economy,” said Representative Bishop. “U.S. agriculture touches the lives of every American – from the food we eat to the fiber in our clothing. This bill will help America continue to provide the highest quality, safest, most abundant, and economical food, and fiber in the world.”
The dogs are chosen from animal shelters, rescue groups, and private owners. If a dog does not complete training, it is offered for adoption. The Beagle Brigade would serve as the first line of defense for early detection at American ports. According to the Senators and Representatives, over 50 prominent agricultural, veterinary, and trade organizations support the legislation.
One of those organizations is the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). “Safe and reliable food production is critical to the United States’ continued national and economic security,” said Terry Wolters, NPPC president. “As African swine fever continues to plague the Dominican Republic and Haiti, strengthening early detection capabilities at our U.S. borders is more important than ever. We urge Congress to act fast and we thank Representatives Sandford Bishop (D-GA) and Drew Ferguson (R-GA) in the House and Senators Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) in the Senate for their bipartisan efforts.”
The Beagle Brigade Act was first introduced in 2022 but was not successful. Supporters of the act hope this time around will be different.
“Last spring, I introduced this legislation with Senator Ernst after I visited these hardworking dogs and their trainers. I saw firsthand how they work tirelessly to protect our agriculture industry from potentially contaminated fruit, vegetables, and meat,” said Senator Warnock. “As a dog-lover and proud member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I am glad to be a leader in the effort to permanently authorize the Center. I’m going to keep pushing to get this done.”