TACOMA, Wash. -- High energy dogs rescued from shelters are now on the front lines of the battle to stop wildlife trafficking, and they may soon come to Washington.
Lily is a lab mix. Once a pound pup, she spent Thursday morning training on cargo containers at the Port of Tacoma.
"One advantage the nose has is that it can detect little bits of scent that are coming out around all the seams and cracks of the container," said Aimee Hurt who is the Director of Operations at Working Dogs for Conservation.
The group rescues dogs that might be too high energy for adoption and gives them a job. In this case, sniffing out crime in a cargo container.
It's full of shark fins.
"Each fin represents a shark caught, the fins cut off, and the rest of the shark dumped back in the water to drown," Hurt said.
At the Seattle and Tacoma's ports, stacks of containers move through every day. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Erik Olson knows there are too many for his officers to check.
"We have a substantial problem in Washington state with black markets. Black markets are very robust in Washington. We've proven that," he said.
Now, there's even more work. With the passing of Initiative 1401, wildlife officers are tasked with checking for trafficked wildlife from all over the world.
It's why dogs like Sarah may make the perfect teammate.
"That's going to help us immensely," Sgt. Olson said, "when you're talking about a small group of officers spending an entire day going through one container."
When Sarah detects a scent, she sits to alert her handler. It could give officers the ability to focus their time and effort. Working Dogs For Conservation is still testing their dogs' success rate since they're mostly trained with vehicle searches.
Sgt. Olson is optimistic about the pairing, but apprehensive about what the help might reveal in variety and quantity of trafficked animals.
"I'm concerned about what we're going to find. You start peeling back that curtain, what are you going to see?" Olson said.