What's wrong with the use of sniffer dogs?

Sniffer dogs don’t stop most drug use. And they have been shown to encourage more dangerous practices, criminalise and traumatise marginalised groups, and make many people feel like potential suspects. ​​



Even highly publicised drug-dog operations tend to be ineffective as a deterrent. Rather than reducing or stopping their drug use in response to drug-dog operations, people have reported taking actions such as:

  • consuming drugs quickly if dogs are present;

  • using their drugs in advance;

  • stashing drugs in internal cavities;

  • using drugs thought to be less detectable; or

  • buying drugs inside a venue.

Source: Dr Peta Malins, RMIT Lecturer

Tragic deaths

Call To End Sniffer Dogs At Aussie Music Festival Following Death

On the 16th September 2013, a 23-year-old festival-goer James Munro died of a drug overdose while 14 others were taken to hospital at the Defqon.1 music festival.


Munro had travelled from Bayswater with two friends to attend Defqon.1 and was discovered barely conscious and abandoned before being taken to the festival’s medical tent. The 23-year-old began having seizures just before midday before he was rushed to Nepean Hospital where he suffered several cardiac episodes before doctors pronounced him dead shortly after 10.30pm.


It was later revealed that Munro had panicked at the gates once when he saw that there was a drug dog operation at the entrance of the festival and swallowed the three ecstasy pills he had purchased online. Source.


The Surprising Truth About Sniffer Dogs At Music Festivals


Oxenham ends his article by citing a 2012 study of ecstasy users, which found a minority of users responding to the sight of drug dogs by immediately consuming all of their drugs, putting themselves at risk of overdose. Source.

Drug detection dogs in Australia: More bark than bite?


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. Source.