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StarBulletin.com

Dog detection program could fall to budget ax


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POSTED: Friday, April 24, 2009

Question: I heard a rumor that the state of Hawaii is discontinuing the Plant Quarantine Branch and also the beagle corps used to detect invasive species. Who is going to take care of this important function? We need to protect the environment against illegal imports or species.

Answer: It's not the entire Plant Quarantine Branch that's in danger of elimination, but its Beagle Dogs Detection Program could fall victim to budget cuts.

The state Legislature is considering eliminating the dog component of the state Department of Agriculture's inspection programs. It is included in the Legislature's draft budget, which is now being hammered out by Senate and House negotiators.

The proposed elimination of the 20-year-old dog detection program was not part of the executive branch's budget proposal, said Janelle Saneishi, spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture.

She called it “;an important component of the biosecurity program.”;

However, “;the program has consistently lost personnel”; over the years, Saneishi said. The problem is that once someone completes the required training, many leave to take similar positions with the federal government, where the pay is greater.

So, while there are six dogs in the program—five beagles, plus a soon-to-be-retired German short-haired pointer—there is only one trained inspector/dog handler and one in training.

Even before lawmakers flagged it, “;the department had planned to restructure this program to help stabilize staffing and operations,”; Saneishi said.

Regardless of what happens during the budget process, or with the program, Saneishi said that “;the department remains committed to protecting Hawaii from invasive species and will continue to make the best use of available resources in this effort.”;

In 1989, Hawaii became the first state to use beagles to assist plant quarantine inspectors in detecting and intercepting prohibited and restricted items.

The Plant Quarantine Branch, meanwhile, is touted as the state's “;First Line of Defense”; in keeping harmful pests and diseases out of the islands.

According to the Department of Agriculture Web site, the branch inspects “;everything from single-celled organisms used for research to exotic animals in the zoo; from flowers, fruits, and vegetables in the market to animal feed at the farm; from the clams and oysters in the restaurant to birds and fishes in the pet shop. All these things are checked at the harbor or airport to make sure they're safe for all of us.”;

Q: I have a problem with crowing roosters. Can you help?

A: The city has hired Royos Farm in Waiahole Valley to handle nuisance, noisy rooster complaints.

Call Pat and Jose Royos at 239-9611.

They not only can help you trap feral roosters and chickens; they also will respond to complaints about crowing and help mediate any fowl disputes.

The Royoses' current $60,000-a-year contract ends on Oct. 31 but is renewable for an additional two years, said Dennis Kamimura, administrator of the city Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division.

If Royos Farm continues handling the contract until Oct. 31, 2011, the next time the city asks for a bid will be for the period beginning Nov. 1, 2011, he said.