Sniffer dogs have been used successfully in the Austrian customs administration for several decades. Prior to Austria’s accession to the European Union in 1995, and until the eastern expansion in 2004, sniffer dogs were largely used as protection dogs and sniffer dogs in the realm of drug detection. In the western and southern regional states of Austria, they were also trained as avalanche search dogs and successfully used in disasters.
The location of weapons and explosives was also a task of the sniffer dogs within the customs administration. As a result of the number of sniffer dogs being cut in 2004 from 74 to 32, this aspect of training was discontinued.
For the public civil servant in question, keeping a sniffer dog represents a particular challenge. A sniffer dog is a living being and is thus not comparable with other work tools. It takes a particular sensitivity and training in order to be able to exploit the aptitudes and skills of the dog as a serviceable aid in daily work deployment. Moreover, in all situations, animal protection legislation must be taken into account.
All employees who decide on this type of work also need to realise that the animal must be integrated into the family and must also remain with its keeper during the keeper’s leisure time.
For several years now, the Austrian customs administration has been training tobacco sniffer dogs. Other EU customs administrations have already had huge successes in this domain, and in Austria too, such dogs have already succeeded in making their first finds shortly after completing training.
In 2007, the project “wildlife detector dogs” was implemented. These dogs were trained to locate animals subject to species protection. Using appropriate scent carriers (snake skins, feathers, etc.), the animals were conditioned and, with the support of Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna, “searches” for live animals could also be integrated. Two dogs are deployed at Vienna Airport where, in the past, there have been repeated finds of protected products with passengers and freight. All dogs have a combined training for cigarettes and drugs or species protection and drugs, and as an essential security factor, protection training as well.