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County Dogs Sniff for Illicit Produce

Because practically nobody covers the county anymore, the job of writing light feature stories about the nation's largest local government has fallen to... Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's press staff.

Today they turn in a nice piece on Ebony and Tahoe (pictured), two dogs that sniff packages in search of contraband vegetables.

Evidently, you're not allowed to send vegetables across state lines, due to the risk of spreading harmful pests. So under the auspices of the county's new Agricultural Detector Dog Program, these two dogs sniff unmarked boxes in search of bok choy, lettuce, and dandelion greens. (Cost to the taxpayer: $311,205.)


Here's a typical day on the job:

"On March 5, 2010, at about 8:00 a.m. at the FedEx in Santa Fe Springs, Ebony responded to an unmarked box sent from Arizona.

Inspector Truong and supervisor Carmen Rieger opened the unmarked box and found it contained dandelion greens, bok choy, dill, green lettuce, and parsley."

What sounded like an innocent salad bar became considerably less appetizing when you learned about the garnishes it was carrying.

"The mixed vegetables appeared home grown and contained ants, aphids, mites, slugs, springtails, wasps, and moths. One of the insects was a big-headed ant (Pheidole sp.) which is a Q-rated pest. The shipment's contents were destroyed by freezing."

The discovery came as a shock--not least of all to Truong, who thought he was looking at an olive oil shipment.

As the editors used to say, clear out some room on A1.

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