Rescue Dogs Help Rescue Wildlife
An Open Spaces Blog
Dock with shark fins. All Photos by USFWS

Happy National Rescue Dog Day on May 20! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement would like to introduce you to three of our amazing rescue dogs who work as Wildlife Inspection Canines, for our Wildlife Inspection Program. These young, healthy, intelligent dogs ended up in shelters for various reasons. Now they work to rescue wildlife!


The Service’s Wildlife Inspection Canines are trained at the National Detector Dog Training Center (NDDTC), which is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The NDDTC works closely with many animal shelters to find dogs who have the intelligence and drive to work. When a dog from a shelter meets the NDDTC’s criteria, trainers test them for temperament and drive. If accepted into the program, the dogs are trained to detect specific items hidden in boxes, vehicles, and other locations. The dogs selected for the Service are trained to detect wildlife scents common in the illegal wildlife trade.

Our Wildlife Inspection Canines are also trained to have good manners. Before they can graduate from the NDDTC, each dog must pass the American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen Test. The test checks for basic obedience and good behavior around unfamiliar people and other dogs.


Our first canine we would like to introduce to you is Allie. She is a wellspring of energy and always ready to work, explore, or play. This intense drive makes her an exceptional worker; however, in an average home without a job to do, Allie may have been a handful. Allie was returned to the animal shelter several times before she ended up in an obedience program in Dallas. Trainers there recognized her immense potential, so they recommended her to the NDDTC, where she began training to be a Wildlife Inspection Canine.  Allie has found many illegal shipments of wildlife, including one that contained boots made from multiple protected species such as sea turtle, ostrich, arapaima, alligator, and caiman. Allie’s favorite thing to do when she is not working is playing tug with her handler.


Beans was rescued from Harris County Animal Shelter in Georgia by the NDDTC.  He is sweet tempered and eager to please his handler. Beans is trained on many wildlife scents such as elephant ivory and continues to learn additional scents regularly.  “I do everything I can to get each animal into their forever home,” says Animal Control Officer Anna Stanford.  “Success stories like Bean’s [are] why I love my job.”

Dock was rescued from Paulding County Animal Shelter in Georgia. “He was surrendered because he was a busy, active dog that didn’t fit the lifestyle of the owner,” says Katie Shipman, the adoption and rescue coordinator at Paulding County Animal Control. “It was very clear Dock was bored and causing mischief at home. He needed a job, so when the owner came to surrender, I immediately thought of the NDDTC. He had great food drive, was very confident, and I knew he would make a great canine officer.”

Dock and his handler inspect a boat for invasives. 

Dock protects Alaska’s natural resources and detects invasive and injurious species before entering the state at the Canadian border. One of his most significant finds was detecting numerous, live U.S. native turtles that were hidden in a shipment.

“We are so proud of Dock!” says Shipman. “Some of the dogs that come through our doors are not cut out for the couch potato life and that is OK. We strive to find the right placement for each pet where they will thrive. Shelter dogs are often seen as ‘broken’ or ‘misfits.’ That is not the case at all. They just have not found the right fit where they can be the best they can be.”

We in the Service are glad Allie, Beans, and Dock found their right fit working with us. Like some people, these dogs needed a chance to find out where they could excel and be their best. We are so grateful to all the shelter workers, volunteers, and trainers who did not give up on these animals and made it possible for these rescued dogs to have careers rescuing wildlife.

By Wildlife Inspector Canine Handler Amanda Dickson, Office of Law Enforcement

This story is from our Open Spaces blog.

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Law enforcement
Working dogs