Retirement will be Sweet for High-achieving Detector Dog Lexus

January 9, 2015


Lexus and her handler, Karen Holton ready for a presentation at a DPI regional meeting in Miami.

Lexus the agricultural detector dog is retiring from her duties with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. From now on, she will live the life of a companion animal with her handler, Karen Holton.

“Lexus is already a member of Karen’s family and will become a more integral part of it,” said Serena Stornaiuolo, Environmental Supervisor II at the Division of Plant Industry office in Apopka.

Lexus was among the first canines to work in the FDACS/DPI detector dog program, which began in 2012. The federally funded program deploys detector dogs and their handlers to major mail/parcel hubs where the dogs inspect packages and mail on conveyor belts as they are sorted before being sent on for further distribution.

The goal is to increase early detection of plants, pests and diseases that may be contained in the packages, thus preventing infestations that could occur in Florida’s environment. The estimated value of each interception ranges from $5-10 million in savings per event.


Lexus after intercepting an unmarked package from Colorado with Salix sp. branches.

During her career, Lexus was credited with many notable finds and was often cited in the FDACS-DPI publication Triology for interesting interceptions. Lexus and Holton have assisted many other agencies including Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Orange, Hillsborough and Osceola county sheriffs’ departments, Tampa Police Department and FedEx Corporate Security.

She also assisted Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance.(SITC), a USDA branch of International Safeguarding.

“We work closely with SITC, which focuses its anti-smuggling efforts at the Ports of Entry and markets to prevent the establishment of plant and animal pests and diseases,” Stornaiuolo said.

Holton, who has worked with many detector dogs throughout her career, said Lexus is the best canine she has worked with.

“A dog with her level of talent is hard to find,” she said.

LexusPackageLexus is sure to enjoy her new accommodations. Karen and her family have built a 16 by 30 foot area for Lexus on their property and her husband is building a climate-controlled doghouse.

As Lexus moves toward a comfortable retirement, handler Holton is scheduled to go to the National Detector Dog Training Center, run by the USDA in Newnan, Ga., this February to receive and certify a new K-9, optimistic that her new partner will build on Lexus’s success protecting Florida agriculture from invasive pests and diseases.







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