30 November 2000
Melody and Winston, the founding beagles of AQIS's Detector Dog Program, are hanging up their maroon coats after eight years helping to protect Australia.
Melody and Winston were the first dogs recruited to the program, which began in 1992. At Sydney airport today, Melody and her handler were presented with a plaque in recognition of the important role they played in the quarantine cause - working to protect Australia's unique environment and important agricultural industries from exotic pests and diseases.
Bob Stirling, manager of AQIS's Detector Dog Program, praised Melody and Winston for being such assets to AQIS — and to Australia.
"These two dogs may be small in size, but they've made a huge contribution to the Quarantine effort by sniffing out — and keeping out — high risk items that could introduce exotic pests and diseases into Australia," Bob said.
"Beagles have an extraordinary sense of smell -that's said to be at least 100 times more acute than our own. AQIS beagles are trained to sniff out more than 30 different items of quarantine concern, including fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, plant material, eggs, birds, reptiles and bees."
In a shift (four to six hours 'sniffing' time) each airport dog and handler team will seize five to 10 items, and in any month a team could be expected to intercept about 33 kg of fresh fruit and up to 9 kg of meat, as well as plant material and eggs.
Career highlights for Melody include sniffing out live turtles — just one of approximately 100 seizures a month she made over the years. Melody was also a 'Penthouse Pet' featuring in Penthouse magazine for a special on working dogs — but refused to go nude and wore her coat at all times! Winston is retiring on a high note, having just recently screened his 1 millionth passenger.
Melody will continue to rule the pack as the matriarch of the Sydney based dogs, living out her retirement in the care of AQIS and in the company of her colleagues. Brisbane-based Winston is destined for his handler's home where they will continue as a team on a social rather than professional basis. It will be a well-deserved rest for the 13 year-old beagle who, despite his age, ranks as one of the leading detector dogs in the world.
AQIS has 35 detector dog teams working at international airports and mail centres across Australia. Beagles are also used for quarantine work at international airports in Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.
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Contact: DAFF Media +61 2 6272 3232
Vision and photo opportunities at the official retirement presentation- Sydney International Airport - Media Centre, Arrivals Level, Northern end, 10.30am, Thursday 30th November.