Bands using Covid-19 sniffer dogs on tour, but Big Day Out founder says it could set dangerous precedent

High-profile musical groups Metallica and the Black Keys have taken out an insurance policy for their recent tours – dogs trained to detect Covid-19 in their crew, entourage and anyone else with backstage access.

A Covid-19 detection dog.
Photo: AFP

Rolling Stone reported that the bands employed the dogs to ensure the virus didn’t prematurely shut down their broadcasts.

And while rock band Tool and country music singer Eric Church have followed suit for their ongoing tours of the United States, event producer and Big Day Out festival creator Ken West has warned against doing the same in Australia.

“The problem with all of this is that a sniffer dog around anyone at a festival or concert will not automatically be considered a Covid sniffer dog,” West said.

“For example, regarding the Big Day Out and the 2000 Olympics, we didn’t really have sniffer dogs before – there were maybe one or two – and all of a sudden there was a truckload of bomb-sniffing dogs who were, as I understand it, retrained within a year to become drug-sniffing dogs.”

He thinks it could set a dangerous precedent and be a slippery slope.

There is, however, some activity on the local front in terms of training dogs to detect Covid-19 in humans.

Anne-Lise Chaber from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at the University of Adelaide said that in terms of effectiveness, PCR tests would come first, then Labradors, followed by rapid antigen tests.

“In the clinical setting…they (the dogs) were 97% effective,” Chaber said.

“We are currently determining their effectiveness in a deployment setting on people, which might not be as good as in clinical settings on samples, but they are more effective than rapid antigen tests, that’s for sure.”

University of Adelaide research and trials are leading the push in Australia to identify and prevent the spread of Covid-19 with detector dogs.

The aim of the program is to provide an effective and reliable screening method as part of future biosecurity strategies in Australia, with the Australian Border Force one of the participating agencies.

Chaber said one dog could screen up to 200 people in an hour.

“A concert set would mean we need a lot of dogs,” she said.

“So what Metallica does is they don’t actually use the dogs to screen people who come to the concert.

“They use the dogs to check the people who work with them. It’s more like a daily crew check, as far as I can tell.”

“In a concert setting, I think it will be doable, but it will require a lot of dogs.”

-ABC

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