The nation's first quarantine sniffer dog started work on the outlying island of Kinmen yesterday as part of the Council of Agriculture's beefed-up efforts to prevent the risk of importing diseases from China.
According to the council's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, the quarantine station on Kinmen has been in operation since Jan. 1, 2001, to deal with the added risk brought about by the "small three links" -- direct communication, transportation and trade links between the outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu with China.
Jake, a four-year-old quarantine inspection beagle, yesterday went on active duty with his handler, Chen Chung-yuan (
"On his first day, Jake has demonstrated that he can successfully detect the scent of certain targets, such as apples and bananas," said Chang Shu-young (
Chang said that the team at Shuitou Wharf hopes to effectively prevent the spread of diseases to ensure the safety of agricultural products, as well as public health.
Chang said Jake has been trained in the US as a quarantine detector dog, along with several other animals that are now working at the international airports in Taoyuan and Kaohsiung. The dogs are trained to detect the scent of fruit and vegetables, plant material, meat products, eggs, birds, reptiles and bees.
"Jake's previous two-year working performance at the Kaohsiung International Airport has shown a success rate of more than 90 percent," Chang said.
Jake has successfully detected dozens of agricultural products ranging from oranges, tangerines, mangos and apples to chicken, beef and pork, Chang said.
Since the bureau started using the services of sniffer dogs at airports, more than 9,000 flights have been searched and 10,800 batches of contraband seized.
Bureau officials said that the number of quarantine detector dogs might be increased in the near future. According to figures compiled by the bureau, 200,000 tourists entered Kinmen from China last year, which jeopardized Taiwan's agricultural security.
Kinmen has been identified as an ideal vector in the spread of animal diseases from China. In 2003, the coast guard seized smuggled ducks carrying a deadly strain of the bird flu virus.
On Monday, 53 smuggled rare dogs were seized by the coast guard in waters near Kinmen. All the dogs were killed without being processed for health examinations. Officials said yesterday that the dogs were killed to preserve Taiwan's rabies-free status.
Since 2002, rabies has claimed 3,000 lives in China, making it the leading cause of deaths attributed to communicable diseases in China, officials said.