Call for no drug dogs at this year’s Defqon.1 festival

NSW Police are being urged to keep drug sniffer dogs away from next weekend’s hard dance Defqon.1 Festival in Sydney, after a man reportedly panicked at seeing the drug dog operation at last year’s event and took a fatal overdose.

Harm reduction advocates Unharm have appealed to the acting commander of Penrith police to keep the dogs away from Defqon.1 and use different tactics to tackle drug-related problems, like the Red Cross Save A Mate ‘safe-partying’ campaign.

“Drug dog operations don’t contribute to harm reduction,” Unharm spokesperson Will Tregoning says in a press release. “Panic-based fatal overdoses are the most tragic outcome of this policing activity. The problem of drug-related harm is too urgent to waste time and money on programs that don’t work.”

Unharm quotes a 2012 study by the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs, and a 2006 NSW Ombudsman review of drug sniffer dog programs, which both found that drug sniffer dogs have “little deterrence effect.” Penrith police acting commander Detective Inspector Healey told Unharm that “police will be conducting operations as we assess as necessary to reduce the risk of harm to patrons of the event.” Defqon.1 was approached for comment by inthemix, but had not responded by the time of publication.

The call to keep drug dogs away from this year’s Defqon.1 follows growing pressure by activists and musicians against the use of sniffer dogs at festivals. Dan McNamee of Art vs Science wrote a passionate plea to Ballina MP Don Page earlier this year, urging him to support a year without sniffer dogs at Splendour in the Grass, to help avoid panic-overdoses. While McNamee’s plea was unsuccessful, the verdict is still out on this year’s Defqon.1: you can have your say at the Unharm Facebook event page.

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