Can Sniffer Dogs Smell Lsd

They are dogs that are trained to use their sense of smell to help the police track and detect illegal substances at borders, customs, and any other place that needs that particular search done.

Sniffer dogs have a very strong smell, stronger than humans, thus can detect various drugs in people’s luggage or belongings.

They get trained by dog trainers to become part of law enforcement especially when it comes to narcotics.

Police dogs might still be able to detect LSD though

Just because dogs can’t smell LSD, and probably aren’t often trained to, it doesn’t mean police sniffer dogs won’t end up detecting acid tabs.

For example, a press report from Australia in 2016 had the headline of “Dogs sniff out LSD, MDMA and cannabis”. Reading that would make you think the Aussies must have some amazing dogs working for their police.

Here’s a quote from the article:

A few things here; firstly, the LSD tabs were found once the dog had alerted the police to the man. Secondly, during the search they also found MDMA.

My suspicion here is that the police dogs smelled MDMA (they are trained for this) or the picked up the scent of another drug on the man. It’s highly possible that the LSD tabs might have also had some cross contamination on them from another narcotic.

Alternatively, there is some evidence that police dogs are trained to alert when they smell something unusual. I watched a documentary on the Discovery Channel that said dogs are trained to alert on anything they smell out of the ordinary.

Can Sniffer Dogs Smell Lsd

But how about LSD?

As LSD has no natural scent, it can’t be detected by sniffer dogs. LSD and acid tabs often just consist of small concentrations of liquid dropped onto a tiny piece of absorbent paper.

This in itself makes it difficult for dogs and law enforcement to detect. However, on very rare occasions, it may be possible for a highly trained police dog to hunt down LSD and acid tabs by detecting the odor of chemical impurities present in the drugs.

These impurities are usually a result of the manufacturing process but can sometimes be the result of cross-contamination of banned substances.

The average police sniffer dog only has the capacity to learn to detect 3-5 different drugs.

Naturally, law enforcement is going to want to target the substances that are considered “problem” drugs in that specific area and therefore train their dogs accordingly.

Police dogs are more likely to be preoccupied with catching those carrying cocaine, heroin, and other narcotics.

It’s important to remember that police sniffer dogs will only hunt and track down what they have been trained to track down.

For example, a study published in 2019 found that dogs have the ability to accurately sniff out cancer in the blood. So it’s safe to say that if dogs can smell cancer cells, they can certainly smell chemical impurities used in LSD manufacturing.

“Dogs have smell receptors 10,000 times more accurate than humans, making them highly sensitive to odors we can’t perceive. A new study has shown that dogs can use their highly evolved sense of smell to pick out blood samples from people with cancer with almost 97 percent accuracy.” (Source)

Despite this, unless a specific police force is working on a huge operation to bust a huge LSD ring, it’s unlikely that their sniffer dogs will be trained to track down LSD and acid tabs.

You’ve probably seen stories in the news of criminals being caught with LSD by sniffer dogs, but this is usually because the criminal is a prolific drug dealer and has other narcotics in their possession. This would be what the dogs are drawn to, rather than the acid tabs themselves.

Someone on an online forum discussing the topic had this to say:

“I have worked in law enforcement, and am a chemist. Now I concede that it is possible for a dog to smell chemicals that have the potential to be leftover in a batch of LSD, but that being said those chemicals are almost never present in any meaningful quantity.”

While this account should be taken with a pinch of salt, as the source is anonymous- it does help to provide insight into how sniffer dogs really track down LSD.

When can police use sniffer dogs?

The Fourth Amendment protects a person’s right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. One of the tools law enforcement most often uses in ways that potentially violate this right is that of the drug detection dog.

Drug dogs are a normal practice American police use to conduct searches and sniff out drugs and contraband. Normally, without emergency circumstances, an officer must have probable cause to search a person’s belongings, such as their car or house.

Drug dogs are used by law enforcement to provide that probable cause where none yet exists.

If police violate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights with a drug dog, a motion to suppress whatever evidence they discovered through the violation should be filed.

Drug Dogs and Traffic Stops:

  • Rodriguez v. The United States: Unless police have “reasonable suspicion” of a crime, it is an unconstitutional seizure for them to extend a legal traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff. Dog sniffs at a traffic stop are considered “searches” within the Fourth Amendment that require probable cause, and police cannot use a drug dog to obtain that probable cause unless they already have reasonable suspicion. Police authority for holding up your vehicle ends once their tasks tied to the traffic violation (i.e., writing your ticket) are or reasonably should have been finished.
  • Florida v. Harris: The fact that a drug dog is not trained to detect the particular substance found in a vehicle, and alerted anyway, is not enough to dismiss a dog’s reliability or the probable cause their alert provided the police officer. If a drug dog is “certified,” this is enough to create a presumption that the dog provided probable cause, even though there are no uniform standards for drug dog certification and training.