Podder, a county detector dog, was met with lots of pets, scratches, and toys on Wednesday after retiring from four years of service in protecting the region’s agricultural industry.
The six-year-old detector dog worked with the County’s Agriculture, Weights & Measures Department. County staff organized a small ceremony, where Podder was joined by his former colleague, Yeti the County’s other detector dog, and Venus, a retired detector dog, and other officials to acknowledge his work.
According to his handler, Kyle Morganton, Podder is retiring due to a medical condition. He has since been adopted.
Commissioner/sealer for Agriculture, Weights, and Measures, Ha Dang presented Podder a Service Award for four years of County service.
Alongside Moranton, the Labrador and Beagle mix intercepted unmarked agricultural parcels that are shipped in violation of agricultural quarantine, or contain unwanted plant pests including insects, diseases, and other harmful organisms to agriculture.
“As a dog, he is more of a Beagle than anything. He tries to hunt and find things. His nose is fantastic, loves long walks, howls at sires and everything,” Moranton said.
According to Moranton, Podder made 426 visits to parcel facilities, where he discovered 728 plants in unmarked parcels, including 137 rated insect pests that were questionable or capable of causing agricultural harm.
“He was always my morning routine and how he's not going to be there anymore so I'm glad he's going to a great home and there is someone that is going to take my spot in the end,” Moranton said. “They have a great team around here so that will help him out a lot.”
The California Department of Food and Agriculture Detector Dog Team program began in 2009, where teams of dogs sniff and identify unmarked parcels, which are a high-risk pathway for significant pests to enter the states. Trained dogs conduct inspections at parcel facilities such as UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service.
The detector dogs are trained to alert on packages that contain agricultural material such as plants, cuttings, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and soil. Those packages are then opened and checked for insects, diseases, or quarantines.
According to the county, another San Diego County agriculture inspector and detector dog are training to join the department in the summer.