A joint program designed to educate travelers coming into the Sunshine State about not packing a pest has expanded to include the Dominican Republic.
The "Don't Pack a Pest" program, a collaborative effort among the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, was launched in 2011.
It is designed to increase traveler awareness about declaring agricultural products, according to a news release. Among the commodities are fresh fruits and vegetables, cut flowers, plant material, animal products and firewood.
Billboards and video advertisements greet travelers arriving at the nation's busiest airports, including Miami, Orlando, Houston, Atlanta and San Francisco. In addition, the public service announcements can be seen at airports in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the U.S. Virgin Islands and now, the Dominican Republic.
The campaign features Linus, an agricultural detector beagle that sniffs out agricultural contraband in luggage and with travelers.
A recent survey of more than 400 travelers at the Miami airport showed awareness for declaring agricultural products had increased to 60 percent in 2013 from 37 percent in 2012.
Because of its semi-tropical climate, Florida is especially vulnerable to exotic pests that are introduced.
At least one pest or disease is introduced to the state each month, according to the release.