Panama shelter dogs for Agricultural k9 unit

Recently Panama became the first country in the region to have an agricultural canine unit. With plans to increase the number of dogs in the unit to 24, Panama is seeking qualified doggies.

How do Panamanian authorities plan to acquire the canine team? According to authorities, Panama aims to connect with animal shelters throughout the country with the goal of finding animals that have the key characteristics required to integrate them into the agricultural unit. This is a concept that has been used in Mexico.

Jorge Marín Espino, executive director of Agricultural Quarantine, said that the four dogs came from Mexico, a country that also trained five Panamanian instructors.

Dogs trained for agricultural detection are able to detect the difference between an apple and a rice seed. Canine units have become the new tool to prevent the spread of viruses and pests. Panama is the first country in the region to have dogs that can detect food and organic products.

The four members of the canine unit presently working at Tocumen and Scarlet Martinez are trained to detect citrus fruits, beef, pork, mango, and dairy products. They have the capacity to identify up to 100 smells. Once an odor is detected, the dogs sit on the suitcase or package which is then marked for quarantine inspection.

"These animals have an effectiveness of 90%, which allows us to minimize the risk of entry of food contaminated with pests and viruses that could endanger the agricultural production of the country," said Marín.

During the inspection of the suitcases of 180 Canadian tourists who arrived this week on the flight of the Sunwing airline through Scarlett Martinez airport, the dogs marked three suitcases. Two containers of food were discovered, neither was confiscated by the quarantine authorities after establishing that there was no risk.

Engineer Miguel Cedeño, one of the instructors trained in Mexico, commented that the animal should be docile and pleasant to the eye since it will be in contact with tourists.

As established by international standards, products that are withheld must be incinerated with the garbage left by international flights.

Due to the increase in the number of passengers at the Rio Hato terminal in recent years, the incineration system is not adequate.  The director of Agricultural Quarantine commented that the International Regional Organization for Agricultural Health (Oirsa) needs to obtain funds and buy a new treatment plant.

Four years ago, 30 kilos of waste were destroyed in Río Hato. Now they are up to 300 kilos needing to be handled.

At the end of the month, high season flights arriving in Rio Hato from Canada will begin at about 8 per week, each with 180 passengers who will spend 7 days in the country, usually at beach hotels.