Plan calls for dogs to sniff out invasive species

Plan calls for dogs to sniff out invasive species

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new plan has some lawmakers begging to bring dogs into the invasive species fight to help sniff out fire ants.

Maile, is a four year old Australian Shepherd, and she's training to be a state worker.

"Are you going to go to work?" said Ellen Watson, Common Scents Canine, dog trainer.

Work in this case Means sniffing out pests. The canine is seeking the coqui frog. In this test Maile is sniffing out a dead frog in a specimen cup. Let's just say Maile is not quite up to snuff yet.

Dog trainer Ellen Watson is also trying to train her dogs to sniff out the invasive fire ants. But first she is working on a special doggy hazmat suit so that the dogs don't get bit by the biting pest.

"I think she's hot and tired and disinterested," said Watson.

Still the ant hunt begins. Dead ants were put in a cup. The dog found the specimen but with a lot of help from her handler. It's still a work in progress and lawmakers feel the ant sniffing dogs are a good investment.

"It's better to detect it with a dog than just spraying arbitrarily a wide area," said State Representative Isaac Choy, (D) Manoa, Punahou, Moiliili.

There is a bill going through the capitol to spend an undetermined amount of money, although it's expected to be around $500,000, on fighting invasive species which would include bringing in the dogs.

"Fire ants are very significant. I think it is going to affect our tourism economy. We have to deal with it," said Rep. Choy.

The Hawaii Ant Lab in Hilo says dogs down in Australia have been successfully sniffing out invasive ants, not only do they find colonies but to confirm they're dead after an area has been treated.

"They both work very well to as an early detection tool as well as a validation tool," said Cas Vanderwoude, Ph.D., invasive species researcher.

The dogs could also be used to sniff out shipping containers which the state used to do for illegal items, until funding cuts axed that program five years ago. We'll see if lawmakers can fetch the funding to bring the dogs back.

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