My name is Thunder. Not too many months ago, I was homeless and waiting for someone to take me home from the Houston Beagle Rescue in Houston, Texas. Then, a nice lady from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s National Detector Dog Training Center (NDDTC) in Newnan, Georgia came to visit. From that day on, my life changed.
At the NDDTC, I met my human handler and my fellow classmates. What a diverse group! You see, detector dogs come from places all over the country, including humane societies, beagle rescue groups and private owners. Before we’re adopted, we go through extensive temperament tests and are evaluated by a licensed veterinarian. And when we retire from service, or if we don’t meet the training requirements, APHIS ensures that we’re adopted and placed in good homes.
My classmates and I trained hard for four whole months and learned how to prevent pests and diseases from coming in on smuggled agricultural products. I learned the scent of agricultural contraband and how to find it in bags, boxes and parcels. Beagles and beagle mixes are really good at sniffing out food and agricultural items in luggage and on passengers. Labs and lab mixes trained hard to patrol international borders, cargo warehouses and postal facilities for smuggled contraband. Even Jack Russell terriers have a job—they learned to detect invasive brown tree snakes in Guam. Eek!
My job is extra special—I sniff out the invasive Asian Longhorned Beetle, an invasive insect that’s killing trees in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Ohio. I didn’t know much about the ALB until I started this job, but I did know that my handler kept giving me treats just for sniffing out beetle “frass”, or the sawdust the beetle leaves behind as it chews. If there is something I am really good at it is sniffing and eating treats. After all, I am a beagle!
My handler says I am part of an important team dedicated to protecting neighborhood trees and this country’s valuable forest resources. Wow! That’s a lot for a little beagle from Texas to take in, but I am proud to protect America from these harmful pests and diseases.
You play a vital role in preventing the establishment and spread of invasive pests and diseases, too. To learn more about what you can do to help, check out the “Attack of the Invasive Species” factsheet at or visit our Hungry Pests wesbite.
To see my classmates and me at work at work, check out this video!