Drug-Sniffing Dogs False Alert 75% of the Time


Drug-Sniffing Dogs False Alert 75% of the Time by Frank Schuler

Cannabis prohibition enforcement strategies involve a number of tactics, many of them proving to be extremely costly and ineffective. One of the many examples can be found in the use of drug-sniffing dogs to ‘detect’ the presence of cannabis.

For those who may be unfamiliar with how dogs are used for this purpose, a dog is typically paraded around a vehicle or structure, and if it ‘alerts’ its handler, that is all the law enforcement entity needs to basically do whatever they want to the person being subjected to the drug dog search.

According to a recent study in Australia that examined nearly 100,000 search cases, the dogs provided false alerts 75% of the time. Below is more information about it via a news release from NORML:

Sydney, Australia: Drug sniffing dogs provide false alerts approximately seventy-five percent of the time, according to an analysis of ten years of data recently provided to members of the Australian Parliament.

The analysis reviewed over 94,000 searches. The overwhelming majority of those searches failed to identify the presence of illegal substances.

According to reporting in The Sydney Morning Herald, “The worst year for drug-detection dogs was 2014, when only 21 percent of the 14,213 searches resulted in illicit drugs being found; the best was two years later in 2016, where 32.5 percent of the 8746 searches were accurate.”

The findings of the analysis are consistent with those of prior studies. An analysis conducted by reporters at The Chicago Tribune similarly reported that drug sniffing dogs false-alerted over half of time, and that they were most likely to do so in instances where the suspect was Latino. Another study, this one  published in the journal Animal Cognition, reported that drug dogs frequently falsely alert when their handlers perceive that illicit substances are present. “Handler beliefs affect outcomes of scent detection dog deployments,” the study’s authors concluded.

Nonetheless, the US Supreme Court has previously ruled that an alert from a police dog during a traffic stop provides a constitutional basis for law enforcement to search the interior of the vehicle.

This article first appeared on Internationalcbc.com and is syndicated here with special permission.

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