AFP canines sniffing out crime to keep Australians safe

AFP K9 sniffs a stack of christmas presents

Australian Federal Police specialist dogs have helped seize 96 kilograms of drugs, 13 firearms and $2.8 million dollars in 2021.

As crime becomes more cyber-enabled, the AFP is also using canines to detect phones, thumb drives and memory cards, which can hold tens of thousands of images of child sexual abuse.

These invaluable AFP canines not only assist investigators during complex investigations but are deployed every day to help protect critical infrastructure, including Australian Parliament House and major airports.

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said the canine unit’s outstanding results exemplified the AFP’s dogged pursuit of justice.

“The Australian Government continues to support the AFP’s world-leading dogs and handlers, including with a $5.7 million boost to the AFP's Technology Detection Dogs program in the last Federal Budget,” Minister Andrews said.

“The AFP’s detection dogs are some of the best in the business, regularly finding illicit cash, narcotics, child abuse material or explosives that criminals have convinced themselves are hidden. Their ability to sniff out offenders is second-to-none.”

Superintendent Simon Henry said the AFP’s National Canine Operations had 70 detection dogs that were trained to sniff out cash, firearms, drugs, explosives and technology.

“Criminals will hide illicit materials in wall cavities, vehicles, under the floor, small cavities within walls, the ceiling and other places,’’ Supt Henry said.

“There are no limits criminals will go to in order transport or attempt to hide illicit substances.

“They use chemicals to mask scent or to draw canines away from a specific area. AFP Canines are trained to outsmart offenders.”

Since 30 June 2020, AFP canines have located more than $4.8 million in Australian currency.

Cash detection dogs are used to help find cash from the proceeds of crime. They are also used at airports to identify money launderers who try to bring in large amounts of cash into or out of the country.

Behind every great canine is a dedicated handler.

“All of our dogs are stars and we have many dogs which are considered exceptional in their role. While there are standout canines within the capability, one is not preferred over another,’’ Supt Henry said.

“Many of our canine handlers have between 10-18 years’ experience, working and training with dogs.”

Despite this year’s challenges of COVID-19, the National Canine Operations team trained nine new handlers. Twelve dogs have graduated into fully operational canines.

This year four dogs retired from service after about six years of operational service.

While COVID-19 disrupted airport operations nationally, AFP canine teams were still working and training each day to support of the security of the travelling public.

Superintendent Henry said as Australians started to travel again, the most likely place the public would see one an AFP canine was at the airport.

“Our dogs are friendly, and love to work and search for things that could put people in danger,’’ Supt Henry said.

It takes an extensive 13-week course for a canine to become an AFP detection dog. Not all canines chosen to undertake the course make the cut. Those dogs are considered for other canine detection programs.

Labradors are predominantly used because of their hunting genealogy and because of their availability through the Australian Border Force breeding program.

The AFP is trialling the Malanois breed for northern most regions because they are more suited to hot conditions.

German Shepherds, Malanois and Belgium Shepherds are used for our Community Policing Canine team due to their drive, focus and propensity to work well within the role.

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