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Drug Alcohol Rev. 2012 Sep;31(6):778-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2012.00431.x. Epub 2012 Mar 9.

Drug detection dogs in Australia: more bark than bite?

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School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.



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.


Regular ecstasy users (n = 2127) were interviewed across Australia between 2008 and 2010 as part of the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System.


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.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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