A specially trained beagle named Sheila recently sniffed out harmful "invasive seeds" from Syria in a passenger's checked bags at Charlotte's airport, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Monday.
Thanks to Sheila, agriculture specialists with the agency found 22 types of seeds for planting, along with two live plants with soil; cactus; coriander; and wheat berries. The coriander and the wheat berries contained insects, according to Customs and Border Protection.
"These items, whether in commercial cargo or with an individual entering the country, could cause serious damage to America's agricultural crops," Patricia Fitzpatrick, Charlotte port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a written statement.
In another incident, Sheila on Feb. 20 alerted her handler to luggage belonging to a traveler who arrived on a flight from Ghana. Three types of prohibited fruits, two species of peppers and a bag of nuts with husks were found during the inspection. Potentially harmful lepidopteran larva was found in the peppers. Lepidoptera is an order of insects that includes butterflies and moths.
Federal agents destroyed all of the prohibited items. The agency issued no penalty against the travelers but warned them about properly declaring agriculture products to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
On a typical day in fiscal year 2017, CBP agriculture specialists found 352 pests at U.S. ports of entry and 4,638 materials for quarantine., according to agency figures.