Experts Say Removing Sniffer Dogs From Festivals May Be Worthwhile

Following Dan McNamee of Art Vs Science‘s plea to institute a trial year in which Splendour In The Grass would not employ a sniffer dog patrol, experts are saying going without dogs could be worthwhile. They say the presence of dogs can influence punters to act dangerously and recklessly.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, a study of 500 New South Wales festivalgoers conducted by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre during the summer of 2014 examined how the presence of sniffer dogs influenced the punters’ behaviour, particularly in relation to drug use.

Lead researcher Caitlin Hughes said 62 percent of respondents said that they would take drugs either way, but that the presence of dogs would lead to two key changes. Firstly, there was a 13 percent increase in the number of people who’d use at least some of the drugs outside the venue.

“The other big change was a 40 percent increase in the relative amount of consumption of ecstasy, methamphetamine and other drugs, as opposed to using cannabis,” said Hughes, adding that other studies had shown that dogs find it easier to sniff out marijuana than other party drugs.

“So they’re switching from cannabis to ecstasy and methamphetamine for reasons we think are to do with reducing their potential risk of detection by the dog,” she said.

According to Hughes, sniffer dogs have become a default strategy for police and a trial could explore whether there are options better than those currently employed.

“Given there are a lot of other police strategies that could be deployed at festivals, such as collaborative policing approaches, we suspect that the answer may be yes, and that they may offer a safer form of policing at high drug use settings,” she said, adding that an experiment could help the “consternation about this issue.” She also said police may not be happy to participate.

Meanwhile, National policy manager for the Australian Drug Foundation Geoff Munro has said that the organisation is concerned about the amount of hospitalisations that result from festivalgoers taking all of their drugs at once to avoid being caught by police outside of festival premises.

“We would support police and festival organisers using other measures to keep festivalgoers safe and healthy during the event,” he said. “[The ADF] knows that the reality is that many people do take drugs at music festivals, so we need to all work together to make sure people come home safely.”

Gallery: Snoop Dogg – Big Day Out 2014, Melbourne 24/01/14

Photos by Anwar Rizk

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