Detector dog sniffs out risky plant haul at Sydney Airport

Six bags of live plants, bulbs, seeds, fungi and soil were among a haul of biosecurity risk items intercepted during a search on a couple arriving at Sydney International Airport last week.

First Assistant Secretary of Service Delivery Division at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Nico Padovan, said the couple were searched after catching the attention of detector dog Scully.

“Incoming international passengers are required to declare certain food, plant and animal products they are carrying, to protect Australia’s biosecurity,” Mr Padovan said.

“Unfortunately in some cases, passengers fail to declare goods, which is where sniffer dogs like Scully assist to ensure hazardous material is stopped at our border.

“Scully alerted her handler to the couple’s hand luggage and clothing, and a search revealed six of their seven luggage bags contained a significant quantity of undeclared plant and food items of biosecurity concern.

“Live plants were also found in a jacket worn by a female passenger.  During the search, she attempted to conceal plant material that had fallen from her pocket, under the inspection bench.

“This detection appears to be a clear attempt to get around the rules that are in place to protect us all.  All passengers entering Australia need to think about the risk they’re posing to Australia when they pack their bags.

“The department works around the clock to enforce Australia's strict biosecurity border controls—12 million mail items and four million passengers were screened in the 2015-16 financial year, along with the assessment of one million cargo consignments.

“This resulted in 3,500 infringement notices and the uncovering of a range of items that posed a risk to Australian biosecurity, including plants and seeds, whole fresh fish, dried lizards, frogs and spiders.

“This is another example of the importance of the work undertaken by our biosecurity officers and detector dogs to successfully detect and intercept biosecurity threats and safeguard our agricultural industries and environment,” Mr Padovan said.

The consignment of undeclared items included:

  • 20 live succulent plants
  • Bulbs/tubers
  • A variety of seeds
  • Fungi
  • Fertiliser
  • Soil
  • Pots
  • Irrigation equipment
  • Citrus peel
  • Salami/sausage

The couple received infringement notices amounting to $840.

Make yourself aware of what is and isn’t permitted. Visit

Pictures are available

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
Thanks for your feedback.
Thanks! Your feedback has been submitted.

We aren't able to respond to your individual comments or questions.
To contact us directly phone us or submit an online inquiry

Please verify that you are not a robot.