University Of Tasmania

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Drug detection dogs in Australia: More bark than bite?

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 12:38 authored by Hickey, S, McIlwraith, F, Raimondo BrunoRaimondo Bruno, Allison MatthewsAllison Matthews, Alati, R
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.


Department of Health and Aged Care


Publication title

Drug and Alcohol Review










School of Psychological Sciences


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

The Atrium, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 8SQ, UK

Rights statement

Copyright 2012 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified

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