Smugglers beware, Zeta loves her job

Zeta, a Ministry for Primary Industries employee, investigates the contents of a suitcase. Photo by Christina McDonald.
Zeta, a Ministry for Primary Industries employee, investigates the contents of a suitcase. Photo by Christina McDonald.
When some workers were battling the back-to-work blues after a summer holiday, biosecurity sniffer dog Zeta was tugging at the reins to get back on the job.

Zeta started at Queenstown Airport last month and is the airport's first permanent biosecurity dog, working the Australian flights.

Handler Belinda Phelon said on Zeta's first day back the dog was ''pulling on the lead to get to the terminal''.

The days before Christmas were particularly busy for the pair.

''One family brought everything in for a barbecue, including a frozen chicken.

''And we got a lot of turkey sandwiches over Christmas from Americans.''

Another family had brought in a selection of fruit and cooked vegetables because they feared no shops would be open on Christmas Day.

One ''seizure'' Ms Phelon is particularly proud of Zeta for sniffing out is two small undeclared pieces of aloe vera leaf in a tightly packed suitcase.

''Leaves are very hard to detect on the X-ray, so when we make a seizure like that I'm stoked because Zeta has done her job really well.''

The dog's ''lovable'' personality and looks sometimes worked to her detriment, when passengers could not resist the urge to pat her.

''Sometimes I have to be gruff and say don't pat the dog,'' Ms Phelon said.