Man’s best friend plays vital roles to island security

Don't let their puppy dog eyes fool you - Claude, Mister, Ella, and Ginger are valuable assets to protecting Guam's borders. The four mixed beagles are partnered with Customs officers like Eric Lizama whose section is funded by the US Department of Agriculture.

"We are actually collaborated with USDA. So what we do, is they give us the funding, they send us off to training, and we enforce their regulations," he explained. Their job: to sniff out five basic odors: mangoes, citrus, pork, beef, and chicken - off passenger luggage at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority. Lizama added, "The reason why they look for these items is because these agricultural items can harbor pests or diseases that can be detrimental to the environment.

"A lot of times people don't think about what a single mango would do to the environment. If it harbored any pests or diseases. With that, it's like, when people do come in, we ask do you have anything to declare? Mangoes? Meats or whatever? A lot of times they just don't think about it. You come off a long flight and they just want to get out and get home. With us, during the inspection we try to educate them."

Since starting operations in January 2015 with the USDA, the Customs Agriculture K-9 Unit has resulted in close to 4,000 pounds in seized items. Those items are then destroyed before they can pose any threat to the island. "Because the disease status from USDA, they have certain diseases that we don't have here on island. Like pork, beef, can't come in whether it be cooked, especially raw - an example would be foot and mouth disease. They have foot and mouth disease over there in the Philippines. Here we don't have it. Anything cooked from pork to beef, it can't come in," he said.

By September, Lizama says they anticipate adding two more dogs and two more handlers to the team. If you see them on the field, Lizama says you can look but don't touch - these dogs are working dogs. "Just don't be scared of them. of course don't touch the dog. You can ask questions about it but don't be scared of the dog. They're just doing their job. If they're coming around sniffing your bag let them sniff your bags and let them move on," he said.

If you have more questions on prohibited items, call customs at 642-8051.

Source: KUAM News

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