Drug detection dogs in Australia: More bark than bite?
Hickey, S and McIlwraith, F and Bruno, R and Matthews, A and Alati, R, Drug detection dogs in Australia: More bark than bite?, Drug and Alcohol Review, 31, (6) pp. 778-783. ISSN 1465-3362 (2012) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2012 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs
Introduction and Aims. Canines are often used by police for drug detection and deterrence. However, their effectiveness has
been questioned. This paper aims to describe the experience of regular illicit drug users when in contact with drug detection dogs.
Design and Methods. Regular ecstasy users (n = 2127) were interviewed across Australia between 2008 and 2010 as part
of the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System.
Results. Over the 3 year period, there was increased visibility of drug
detection dogs by regular ecstasy users. New South Wales was the jurisdiction with the most reported sightings, mainly occurring
at festivals or live music events. Despite this police presence, however, detection and deterrence rates remained low. Approximately
two-thirds of participants who had seen the drug detection dogs had drugs in their possession at the most recent sighting, yet less
than 7% were positively identified by dogs. Further, the majority of participants in possession of drugs took no actions after
sighting the dogs, whereas a small group hastily consumed the drugs.
Discussion and Conclusions. The low proportion of
reported positive notifications from the dogs by the participants who had drugs on them at the time of sighting questions the
accuracy and effectiveness of this procedure. Despite the increased visibility of police drug detection dogs, regular ecstasy users
continue to use and be in possession of illicit drugs in public, suggesting a limited deterrence effect.The hasty consumption of
drugs upon sighting the dogs also raises health concerns.
illicit drug, detection, deterrence, drug detection dog, EDRS, ecstasy, psychostimulants, law enforcement