Atlanta’s airport Beagle Brigade sniffs out potential threats

ATLANTA — Flying out of the country this holiday season, you’ll likely encounter the Beagle Brigade at Atlanta’s airport who is hard at work 365 days a year.

The K9s sniff out potential threats to the U.S. and our food supply.

Channel 2’s Steve Gehlbach was at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with how and what they found.

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Police and K9 teams are common sites at the airport whether drug-sniffing dogs or the TSA’s explosive-sniffing dogs, but if you’re arriving here on an international flight, you’ll see another type of dog.

“Mookie, find it,” said Ofc. Marco Collins.

Collins and Mookie have been a team at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson since 2021.

“He actually searches people’s pockets,” Collins said.

Sniffing the air around bags and passengers.

“…So he’ll take his nose and point to the pocket,” Collins said.

The beagle gives a passive alert by just sitting.

“What you got, Mookie,” Collins asked after smelling an orange.

“Good job,” Collins said to Mookie.


The beagles are trained to sniff out five basic odors.

“Apples, oranges, mangos, pork, and beef,” Collins said.

Looking for any threat to the U.S. that could bring in any plant or pest diseases. The beagle is perfect, not only for their sensitive sniffer, but they’re smaller and more friendly than the larger, more aggressive K9s like a malinois or German shepherd.

“But when (you) see a floppy-eared dog, they’re cute and cuddly so everyone’s like…oh, they’re so cute! Until they sit beside their bag and like ‘Oh, I got busted,’” Collins said.

Last year, the Beagle Brigade found a live Giant African snail, a dangerous, invasive species if it got into the country.

The most common items are food, and the volume goes up during the holidays.

On recent morning flights arriving from South Africa, Ethiopia and Korea some of the items confiscated, included fruit, packaged meats, and a live plant in soil.

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Recently, Mookie even found some peacock feathers from India.

“They’re a protected species, so (you) can’t bring the feathers here to the U.S.,” said Collins.

The best advice is if have any questions if it’s allowed, always declare what you’re bringing home, or you could face up to a $300 fine.

“If it’s undeclared and a prohibited item, they can be fined,” Collins said.

The beagles do not stay with their handlers until they retire and they don’t even stay at the airport. There’s an off-site kennel nearby, staying in their own doggie condo when not working.