Dogs to be used at border crossings to sniff out smuggled meat as prices increase
Anita Lam and Loretta Fong
Five sniffer dogs will join Customs and Excise Department inspectors next month to help detect carriers of illegal meat, as food prices continue to soar.
The three beagles and two Labradors will be used at various control points early next month to combat illegal importation of live animals and meat products around the Lunar New Year, when the incidence of illegal imports usually increases.
The initiative follows a similar practice in Guangdong province, which has used 17 sniffer dogs since 2004 at airports and train stations to detect illegal food and animal imports.
Shunde Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau chief He Weitang said detection of smuggling cases had more than doubled to 94,335 cases last year from a year earlier with the help of the dogs. Some 129 kinds of forbidden items had been seized.
In Hong Kong, a spokesman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said the dogs - which completed the first part of their training in Australia - would receive a further three weeks' operational training locally before being assigned to their duties.
They are trained to screen a large number of travellers and to detect the scent of raw meat.
The dogs indicate to their handler that they have detected something amiss by sitting next to the passenger or the suspect luggage.
Anyone smuggling meat, poultry, animals and endangered species is liable to a fine of up to HK$50,000 and six months' imprisonment.
Legislator Wong Kwok-hing, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said if the dogs proved effective they should also be used to detect goods smuggled aboard cross-border food-delivery trucks.
Customs has cracked a number of pork-smuggling cases using cross-boundary vegetable-delivery trucks in recent months, as meat prices continued to rise.