Studies have revealed sniffer dogs are significantly accurate in the search for drugs, despite recent doubts raised by the Australian Greens.
One study, completed in 2014 and published in the Forensic Science International, assessed the ability of four different breeds to find several types of drugs in numerous situations. Throughout 1219 tests, the dogs were 87.7 per cent correct. The drugs were found in an average of 64 seconds.
While the study proved overall accuracy, there were areas of varied success. Most of the dogs struggled to find heroin, and none could find any traces of the drug 48 hours after removal. The dogs also struggled to find drugs inside cars.
Police dogs have been used in New South Wales since 1932, and are a regular assistant for all operational police. They’re most commonly used to find drugs, human remains or explosives. Despite the supportive research, the NSW Obudsman Review of the Police Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act 2001 found that 60 to 80 per cent of people identified by the dogs were not carrying drugs.
Under New South Wales law, police are allowed sniffer dogs in most public places, and in others with a warrant. Officers are able to request a search if they have reasonable suspicion a person may possess drugs.
Greens MP David Shoebridge and police has campaigned against the use of sniffer dogs, and has suggested pill testing stations be used at music festivals as an to dogs. His campaign, Sniff Off, argues the dogs are inaccurate and an invasion of privacy. The campaign’s Facebook page, which has over 36,000 likes, claims sniffer dogs are inaccurate 74 per cent of the time, and regularly post sightings of police dogs in public locations.
“The use of drug dogs has little to no impact on the availability and consumptions of drugs and subjects thousands of innocent people to strip searches,” he said.
“Any other expensive and ineffective police program that got it wrong this often would be scrapped. It’s time for the drug dogs to go and the government to implement harm minimisation policies that actually work.”