Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Busted! I'm so gonna sniff you to the bone!!!

Opening up a new tag here for a field of great interest but reportedly missing in the blog catalogue, up 'til now - Forensics. Probably, this is not the best article to talk about forensics, but if you know a better tag for Drug Dogs, Canines working in the narcotics  capturing, please, by all means, advise me. 

I started this article whilst pursuing a way of destroying an old myth regarding drug dogs and a supposed addiction they are submitted to when facing training. I read loads of random pages stating that dogs undergo addiction to the drugs they are to hunt for in airports, roads, buildings, wherever they are called to in the line of duty. So, I remember having to travel to India as part of my masters and changing flights in Istanbul right after leaving Birmingham. Well, everything was going smooth apart from the moment every single passenger was instructed to line up by a very upset female official with a bloody cute dog (probably a Labrador/Retriever), awesome specimen, yet highly committed to its work - sniffing the hell out of everyone's underwear looking for illicit drugs or the like. Apart from wanting to piss my pants not because I was hiding something, but because that was my very first international trip, I wasn't that aware of the need for such queuing, smelling and seeking protocol, I personally thought one of the travellers there had been snitched and fire-gun would probably start spiting metal right after the individual had been spotted (read sniffed) by the awesomely cute dog. Funny though is the fact that the cold faced officer lady conducting the search was feeding some white powder to the animal, immediately forcing that pre-conceived idea that these dogs are made addicted in order to better search for the illicit substances coming to surface.

I searched and searched pdfs and webpages, forums and scientific articles and didn't find anything reporting or indicating that the canines used for this particular role face pre-addiction in order to better fit the profile of a proper drugs search dog. There are many training facilities that develop these dogs and their  capacities to find illicit substances, they don't just search for drugs, they can actually smell big piles of money, for instance. Narcotics detector dogs, also known as drug dogs, dope dogs, narc dogs, etc,  are versatile active pacesetters, very energetic operational working animals, adapt to different types of search while working perfectly through a number of distractions, are "positively reinforced by the  simple presentation of a hard rubber ball, play toy or rolled up towel..." as affirmed by World Canine Inc.[1] (WWI) on their website. These animals are trained to look for several types of drugs from opioids to barbiturates, from stimulants to hallucinogens, and even depressants. This specific company, WWI does not use pseudo narcotic scents (substitute formulations for controlled substances for the training of narcotic detector dogs), they only use registered drug samples, what indicates that some training schools might use these pseudo scents that mimic the odour of the real illicit substances. The pseudo scents are available in many forms, from Pseudo Narcotic Scent Marijuana Formulation to LSD and Heroin Formulation [2] (see image 3). Even though pseudo scents are extensively used by several trainers, those working for WWI do not see as acceptable training of dogs supported by such formulations [2] because apparently, as far as I could find out (and this is my interpretation and not the WWI's opinion) with the very limited time I had available this week, these pseudo scents trigger a much stronger response from the animals when compared to the response initiated by the "original" substances [3], generating a biased outcome. On the other hand, when checking Leerburg.com (a great website if you want to address questions to an experienced narcotics detection dogs trainer), one can find an opinion on the effectiveness of dogs trained on pseudo scents; it says "I cannot comment on how a dog smells and compares pseudo. I can say this: every dog that is trained on pseudo will always hit on the real drugs. I have heard of dogs that will hit on real drugs that do not hit on pseudo. I have not personally seen this. I am not a fan of using pseudo drugs after the first couple of weeks of imprinting the drug scent in training. Pseudo drugs are not narcotic. They are therefore not illegal to have. How can a K9 Officer that regularly trains with pseudo testify that his dog only hits on illegal substances? Where does the probable cause go? I would not want to be the officer that has to justify this in court." [4]

You might think that if a dog is given drugs to smell, drugs that can alter its brain activity and make the dog suffer nervous alterations, but apparently when it comes to dogs and their impressive olfactory detection system, doses used are so reduced in size that this problem will never be a real issue. And if you are already thinking of getting into action and team up with your dog to form an amazing partnership, check on the video for some short, very short indeed, hints on the subject. Anyway, these dogs are available for screening neighbourhoods, go to schools, scope that dope anywhere in a very discrete fashion, just give them a call because like they say “Many young people in treatment programs say they had used…drugs for at least two years before their parents knew…” [5]

Personally, I still believe in the power of straight creative communication, but for those who don't...

Remember, any dog can be trained regardless of breed, my bitch "Bleach" would smell roast chicken grilled in Africa, and my good friend Zaza's dog Sushi would sniff rotten boar from galaxies away, I'm telling you!!!!; but because many breeds happened to Life through artificial selection humans forced throughout times, by cross-breeding different desired characteristics, it is very natural to expect some of these breeds to be very adequate for the role of seeking drugs and others to be just NOT, AT ALL! Nevertheless, the main issue of this article was not to inform you about narcotics dogs training procedures, but to brake the mystery surrounding their effectiveness supposedly supported by an addiction, or even slightly related to an addiction on the very drugs they look for. That is just not true. These dogs are specialised in smelling anything they were trained to based in a reward system. If you still not convinced just think about this and ask yourself if you've ever seen someone work properly and being trustworthy under the influence of illicit drugs or suffering of the secondary effects of an addiction, and the results of that same work taken to court for framing criminals? NO?? There you go!

Another quality sniffing article from TheToxicologistToday expecting your comments, if to improve the quality of the article or just to say that you care for the blog. Love is a drug I actually value a lot! See you soon. 

[1] - World Canine Inc. - Drug Dogs - http://www.worldwidecanine.com/drugdogs_wwc.htm - last update unknown, last visited on the 22nd of March 2011.

[2] - K9 Solutions Center - Pseudo Training Aids - http://www.quickscent.dopedog.com/ - last updated on 2004, last visited on the 22nd of March 2011.

[3] - Lit, L., Crawford, C. A. (2006). "Effects of training paradigms on search dog performance". Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 98, pp. 277-292.

[4] - Leerburg.com, Training Narcotics Detection Dogs - http://leerburg.com/109.htm - Last updated in 2010, Last visited on the 22nd of March 2011.

[5] - Sniff dogs - discrete drug detection - http://www.sniffdogs.com/ - last updated in 2011, last visted on the 22nd of March 2011.

No comments:

Post a Comment