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Meet Benny the dog Washington’s newest weapon in fight against illegal wildlife trafficking

Seattle Times – As a major port state, Washington is a thoroughfare for animal shipments both legal and illegal. Now it has an enthusiastic, four-legged weapon against smugglers.

“Illegal wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest transnational organized crime in the world, and the U.S. is a prominent consumer in the black market of wildlife trade, according to the Department of State. As a major port state, Washington annually sees approximately 5,000 wildlife shipments, both legal and illegal, according to John Goldman, who supervises U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspectors in the Pacific Northwest. Goldman said he has seen a surge in illegally trafficked animal products used in “higher-quality” traditional Asian medicine, including protected species of sea horses, pangolin scales, bear gallbladders and pills and plasters made with leopard… The federal wildlife inspection program relies on support from Customs and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife — and now, Benny’s well-trained nose. The two-year-old dog stands tall as he sniffs up a stack of crates, before he dashes off to the next potential treasure site. Following Wendt’s hand, Benny weaves through pallets stacked with goods in a fraction of the time that it would take officers to go through the shipments. When Benny hits on something, he pauses to give a more thorough sniff — as if to double- and triple-check — before sitting down to indicate a discovery to Wendt. Sometimes, however, Benny struggles to control his excitement. “He’s a Lab, so he wants to put his mouth on everything,” Wendt said. Wendt found Benny at a shelter in May 2017, and evaluated him as having a good foundation for a detection dog. [Thank you Department of Fish & Wildlife Detective Lauren Wendt and Benny]

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