Like Joey who works in the Atlanta airport, the Beagle Brigade is a special team of detector dogs that is an important part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As agriculture canines, members of the Beagle Brigade are trained to sniff out fruits, foods, plants and animal products that are tucked away in passengers' luggage and carry-on bags as they arrive in the terminals on international flights.
While bigger dogs like Labrador retrievers are often responsible for patrolling the country's borders, beagles and beagle mixes are employed at airports because they're small, gentle, and pack a keen sense of smell and a big appetite; all features that make them perfect for the job [source: CBP].
The Beagle Brigade was formed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1984 at the Los Angeles International Airport. It started with just one beagle who was trained to pick up the scent of plants and animal products arriving on international flights in suitcases and carry-on bags [source: CBP]. The federal customs agency introduced beagles in an attempt to put travelers at ease since the breed can come across as less threatening than standard police dogs like German shepherds. Their small size also makes it easier for them to maneuver through crowded areas like baggage claim [source: Lade].
"These dogs have to work very closely around the passengers if they're coming through international airports, checking their bags and carry-ons," Kathleen Warfield, a training specialist at the National Detector Training Center in Newnan, Georgia told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.