County Using Dog To Sniff Out Agricultural Pests

(April 7) The county department of agriculture is using a dog to detect pests and restricted plants at parcel reception/shipping centers and the county’s agricultural inspection station in Yermo.
Last year, the board of supervisors approved continuing a program that involved a two-dog team to  perform pest surveillance inspections at parcel shipping centers using canines to detect the presence of any unwanted pests or plant material in unmarked parcels entering the State of California. The state had made revenue in the amount of $275,000 available to the county to defray the cost of the program.
However, according to former San Bernardino County Agricultural Commissioner John D. Gardner, in August 2014 the  agreement put in place between the state and the county specifies the lower amount of $182,128 “due to the recent discontinuance of one detector dog team due to an injury/illness of the canine.”
This week the board of supervisors voted to accept from the state additional funding of $8,500, bringing the cost of the program running during the period of July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015 to an amount not to exceed $190,628.
The request for that additional funding was made by the county’s new agricultural commissioner, Roberta Willhite.
“Once a pest or plant is located within a package, the plants are inspected and if a pest or disease symptoms are observed; the samples/specimens are submitted to the CDFA Plant Pest Diagnostic Laboratory for identification. Upon confirmation of a non-native harmful species, or materials proscribed by quarantine regulation, the plants are returned to the shipper or destroyed. Canines have been utilized with great success to detect plant materials in unmarked parcels. These inspections deter the spread of plant pests, diseases or other harmful organisms that may pose a threat to California’s environment and agricultural industry and the economic well-being of the state.”
The agreement for these inspection services was first authorized by the board of supervisors in 2006, and it has been renewed on an annual basis thereafter. San Bernardino County is down to a single pest inspection canine because the state had insufficient funds available in 2014-15 to provide for the acquisition and training  of a replacement detector dog team.
The original $182,128 provided to the county by the state was earmarked for reimbursement of staffing costs based on an established hourly salary and benefit rate for employees assigned to the program, canine care, and operating expenses. This week’s amendment to that contract was intended to compensate the agricultural department for an increase in veterinary care and boarding expenses.

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