Dog detective nabs tortoises at airport


, Last Updated: 3:02 PM ET

EDMONTON - A doggy detective¹s work may lead to criminal charges against a traveller who tried bringing exotic tortoises to Canada.

Canada Boarder Services Agency detector dog Max helped find three Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoises in a traveller's suitcase in Edmonton on May 14.

The luggage came on a flight from London, England's Heathrow Airport to Edmonton. It's not known where the tortoises came from. The investigation is ongoing.

The passenger could face criminal charges or civil penalties, said border services spokeswoman Lisa White, or civil. The passenger also brought back prohibited cheese and plants.

"The dogs are a really good tool for us," White said. "They really help boarder officers conduct examination in really quick time. The dog can sniff down the carousel and pick up any scent they detect. If officers were to check the bags, it would take a long time."

Max is a beagle trained to find prohibited foods, beverages, plants and animals in luggage inbound to Canada.

He's been on the job for just more than a year, said White. It's his first live animal seizure, though he finds other items daily.

Certain plants, animals and items need permits to be brought in. Others are banned entirely.

The import of tortoises is banned under a federal act. "This seizure clearly demonstrates the CBSA is ever-vigilant in protecting Alberta's strong agricultural resources from pests and diseases at our international boarders," said White.

Many travellers bringing home banned items are in fact unwittingly violating the rules.

"A lot of the time, it¹s just travellers don¹t know. They could be travelling with fruits or vegetables or pretty flowers," said White.