We like having K9 Noses in our Business

March 24, 2014

Detector dogs play many important roles in protecting the public, the environment and the food supply from invasive pests and diseases. Here at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry, we have a number of these canine detectives on the job, and we would like for you to meet some of them.

Linus suitcase

Linus, an agriculture detector dog with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is the face of the Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest Campaign.

Some of our FDACS/DPI canines search shipping hubs for material that may carry invasive plants and diseases. We also have dogs  whose noses are tuned to the scent of invasive pests such as the giant African land snail, which has been the subject of eradication efforts in Miami-Dade County since 2011. Other working dogs, like Linus, the detector dog who is the face of our Travelers Don’t Pack a Pest Campaign, patrol for contraband agricultural products in airline passengers’ luggage. Linus works with our partners at the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

All of these dogs play an important and expanding role in identifying material that may be carrying invasive plants and disease. The DPI Detector Dog Program is expanding from searching the large FedEx hubs in Miami and Orlando to include UPS facilities as well. There are 20 major UPS hubs in Florida. Soon one handler will be relocated to Tampa to work FedEx and UPS commercial shipment facilities there. The program has hired Michael Sabato as K9 Program Supervisor/Environmental Specialist III. Sabato recognized the pivotal role Serena Stornaiuolo, environmental Supervisor II, has played in keeping the program proficient.
“Before I was hired (and since), she has gone above and beyond to support our mission, help with training and support the handlers in their inspection duties,” Sabato said. Canine handlers Ives Lopez, Larry Bynum and Omar Garcia were promoted from OPS to Career Service positions. Ives graduated from the National Detection Dog Training Center in Newnan, Ga. and works with his K9 Partner, Verde. Omar and Larry joined the very first giant African land snail (GALS) detection dog course in February and were to be assigned their K-9 partners before joining the GALS eradication team in Miami-Dade.


All of the DPI dog handlers train at the USDA’s National Detection Dog training Center in Newnan, Ga. Graduates pictured (left to right) are Michael Sabato with K9 Jammer; Lauren Eckert, a handler from Los Angeles and her dog, Sedona and Ives Lopez with K9 Verde.



By searching FedEx shipments, DPS Detector Dog Karen Holton and K9 Lexus generated more than eight pages of specimen reports for different bugs, some not previously found in Florida.


Detector Dog Lexus alerted his handler, Karen Holton, to this shipment of day-lillies from Oregon. The canine program has expanded from searching only FedEx hubs to include UPS facilities.



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