How Reliable are Drug-sniffing Canines?

Drug-sniffing dogs have always been used and trusted in the court of law, but last Thursday the Florida Supreme Court tossed out evidence that a canine detected. After this 5-1 Supreme Court decision, it is going to be a lot harder to get approval to use dog-sniffing evidence in cases.

In the past, dogs were judged by their experience and training but now, they are going to have to display a reliable track record.

According to an article from the St. Petersburg Times,

“The Oregon Supreme Court also set reliability criteria in a pair of rulings earlier this month, and a Chicago Tribune analysis of Illinois data in January showed the dogs are wrong more often than they are right.”


This relates back to a 2006 case where a man was stopped for a routine traffic violation. The canine ran to the driver’s side door after the man had refused to let the officer search his truck. The officer found many tools and pills used to make methamphetamine. Two months later, the same man was pulled over by the same officer. The canine again went to the same side of the door, but this time nothing was found in the truck.

The question arises can we always trust canines? There is an obvious language barrier and we will never be able to know what the dog is sensing.

Last week, a Florida Supreme Court judge ruled in a separate case that officials must have a warrant before using drug-sniffing canines at residences. It will be interesting to see the result of this publicity and what will happen to drug-sniffing canines reputation.

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