A recently proposed piece of bipartisan legislation would ensure all retired military dogs are provided with veterinary care, a loving home, and recognition for their heroic work.
The bill, backed by Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Republican Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina, would reclassify the dogs as “canine members of the armed services,” rather than equipment, and would also require the Pentagon to set up non-profit agencies for some or all of the dogs’ post-military health care needs, which are often sizable. The bill further directs the Pentagon to transfer retired dogs without owners to locations where they’re most apt to be adopted. In most cases, this would be a 400-acre facility at San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force Base, which not only trains military dogs but has an existing adoption program. Lastly, the bill calls for the animals to be recognized for their service, especially those who died in service or whose feats were particularly courageous.
This legislation not only directly helps the animals, but their veteran owners as well. “For a vet coming home who loves the dog and wants to care for it, it can be a significant financial burden,” Senator Blumenthal notes. And because the care would be funded by charitable donations, it would not cost tax payers. Both Blumenthal and Jones are “dog-lovers” motivated by the dangerous and courageous work military dogs do on behalf of American troops.
While the use of dogs in war dates back to ancient Greeks and Romans, they received national attention last year when the New York Times reported that the Navy Seals team responsible for raiding Osama bin Ladin’s Pakistani compound utilized a dog in their mission. At the time, then-commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, said the dog’s capability “cannot be replicated by man or machine” and “outperforms any asset we have in our industry.” Dogs trained for military work typically serve an average of 10 to 12 years and perform many specialized life-saving functions, such as detecting drugs or explosives.
Blumenthal and Jones hope their proposed legislation will help streamline the adoption process, prevent working dogs from being left behind abroad and, ultimately, minimize the number of military dogs that are euthanized.