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) along with U.S. Senators Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) have introduced the Beagle Brigade Act in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The bipartisan bills would provide permanent authorization for the National Detector Dog Training Center, located in Newnan, Georgia.
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 our country.
"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 Rep. 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."
"Every day, USDA's National Detector Dog Training Center in Newnan, Georgia plays an essential role in keeping our food supply safe," said Sen. Rev. Warnock, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "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. 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."
"Iowa farmers know that viruses like avian influenza and African swine fever have the power to devastate our agriculture industry, so we must do everything in our power to keep these diseases out of our farms and fields," said Sen. Ernst, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "The Beagle Brigade is a major tool we use to sniff out these harmful diseases before they even enter our country, and this bipartisan bill will help ensure they can continue doing this important work."
Providing permanent authorization for the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Detector Dog Training Center ensures the United States has a crucial tool in its fight against foreign pests and diseases that have the potential to devastate all sectors of the agriculture economy. Over 50 prominent agricultural, veterinary and trade organizations support the legislation.
The Center trains dogs—mostly beagles—and their handlers to detect fruits, vegetables and meats in international passenger baggage, mailed packages and vehicles entering the United States. Dogs are selected from animal shelters, rescue groups and private owners, and those that do not complete training are offered for adoption.
The National Pork Producers Council applauds the reintroduction of the Beagle Brigade Act of 2023.
"Safe and reliable food production is critical to the United States' continued national and economic security," said Terry Wolters, NPPC president and owner of Stoney Creek Farms in Pipestone, Minnesota. "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."
The "Beagle Brigade" serves as the first line of defense for early detection at the nation's ports of entry and is critical in keeping foreign animal diseases, like ASF, out of the United States. NPPC led over 50 agricultural and other organizations in supporting the Beagle Brigade Act's reintroduction and urges Congress to pass this bipartisan bill.
"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," said Wolters.