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"This film covers the training and care of a dog used by the U.S. Customs Service to sniff out concealed narcotics." United States Customs Film Number 272, Department of the Treasury.
Public domain film from the US National Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).
A detection dog or sniffer dog is a dog that is trained to and works at using its senses (almost always the sense of smell) to detect substances such as explosives, illegal drugs, wildlife scat, currency, or blood. Hunting dogs that search for game and search dogs that search for missing humans are generally not considered detection dogs. There is some overlap, as in the case of cadaver dogs, trained to search for human remains. Some police dogs that are used in drug raids are trained not only to locate narcotics, but also persons who may be hiding from the police, as well as stashed currency. Some detector dogs can locate contraband electronics, such as illicit mobile phones in prisons.
In recent years, detection dogs have emerged as a valuable research tool for wildlife biologists. In California, dogs are trained to detect the quagga mussel on boats at public boat ramps, as it is an invasive species. Sniffer dogs have also been enlisted to find bumblebee nests. Other studies have employed detection dogs for the purposes of finding and collecting the feces of a diverse array of species, including caribou, black-footed ferret, killer whale, and Oregon spotted frog...
One notable quality of detection dogs is that they are able to discern individual scents even when the scents are combined or masked by other odors. In 2002, a detection dog foiled a woman's attempt to smuggle marijuana into a Brisbane, Australia prison. The marijuana had been inserted into a balloon, which was smeared with coffee, pepper and petroleum jelly and then placed in her bra. A sniffer dog can detect blood even if it has been scrubbed off surfaces...
In the United States, Narcotic Detection dogs had to become court qualified prior to their talents becoming admissible in a court of law.
In 2011, the Chicago Tribune reviewed the traffic stop data from Chicago-area police departments, and found that "false alerts" were strongly biased against Hispanic suspects. For example, in Naperville, Illinois, an average of 47% of all positive detection dog alerts resulted in subsequent discovery of narcotic drugs or drug paraphernalia. Looking specifically at Hispanic suspects, however, only 8% of the dogs' positive alerts resulted in similarly fruitful searches. The report concedes that some – but not all – of this disparity can be attributed to "residual odors", which linger even after contraband is removed from the vehicle. But given that the dogs themselves harbor no racial bias, the Tribune concludes that the dogs' response is influenced by the biases and behaviors of their handlers. Further still, the report points to the fact that very few states have mandatory training, testing or certification standards.
In June 2012, three Nevada Highway Patrol officers filed suit against Nevada's Director of Public Safety, alleging that he destroyed the police dog program by intentionally training canines to be "trick ponies" – to falsely alert based on cues from their handlers – so as to enable officers to conduct illegal searches of vehicles. The lawsuit claims that in so doing, he and other top Highway Patrol officers had violated the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act...