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The use of drug detection dogs in Sydney, Australia


Matthew Dunn BA (Psych), PostGradDipPsych, GCertPopH, PhD, Associate Lecturer, Louisa Degenhardt BA (Hons) (Psych), MPsychol (Clinical), PhD, Professor. Dr Matthew Dunn, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Tel: +61 (0)2 9385 0167; Fax: +61 (0)2 9385 0222; E-mail:


Introduction and Aims. At present there is little research into the use of drug detection dogs. The present study sought to explore the use of detection dogs in Sydney, Australia, utilising multiple data sources. Design and Methods. Data were taken from interviews with 100 regular ecstasy users and 20 key experts as part of the 2006 New South Wales arm of the Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System, and secondary data sources. Results. The majority of regular ecstasy users reported taking some form of precaution if made aware that dogs would be at an event they were attending. A small proportion of the sample reported consuming their drugs when coming into contact with detection dogs. One group of key experts viewed the use of detection dogs as useful; one group disliked the use of detection dogs though cooperated with law enforcement when dogs were used; and one group considered that detection dogs contribute to greater harm. Secondary data sources further suggested that the use of detection dogs do not significantly assist police in identifying and apprehending drug suppliers. Discussion and Conclusions. The present study suggests that regular ecstasy users do not see detection dogs as an obstacle to their drug use. Future research is necessary to explore in greater depth the experiences that drug users have with detection dogs; the effect detection dogs may have on deterring drug consumption; whether encounters with detection dogs contribute to drug-related harm; and the cost–benefit analysis of this law enforcement exercise. [Dunn M, Degenhardt L. The use of drug detection dogs in Sydney, Australia. Drug Alcohol Rev 2009]