The Tech Tweak That Helped Australia’s Customs Detector Dogs

The Australian Customs And Border Protection Service maintains a squadron of detector dogs to help identify illegal imports. Dogs might be a low-tech solution, but a recent “technology update” has significantly improved the breeding program for the service.

Pictures: Customs

Randall Brugeaud, chief information officer for Customs, told the story at the GovInnovate conference in Canberra. “As I was walking through our multi-million dollar detector dog facility about six months ago, the manager took me through the welcome area where the dogs have pups.” The National Detector Dog Training Facility is located in Bulla, Victoria, and is the source for all the detector dogs used by customs. To date, 2500 Labrador retrievers have been bred there.

The area included a bed where staff could rest while keeping on eye on pregnant dogs due to give birth soon. Customs had tried to automate that process by installing web cameras that could be used to monitor the area — but the camera installation had never been completed. “We connected their camerads and provided them remote access with mobile devices, and nobody needs to sleep there anymore,” Brugeaud said.

The staff in the centre have also extended the camera technology beyond that initial plan by granting access to the vets used by the service. “Rather than having the vet drive all the way to the facility, the vet can check online and make a determination. Our officers are being very resourceful and using the technologies we give them in unintended ways.”

The lesson here for everyone? Technology is meaningless if you don’t install it properly. Also: puppies are excellent.

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