They go above and beyond to demonstrate their intelligence, loyalty and bravery. They refuse to leave the sides of their fallen soldiers and are repeatedly asked to risk their lives. Yet, when all is said and done, our military working dogs (MWDs) are classified as nothing more than equipment by the Department of Defense.
MWDs are used by all arms of the Armed Forces, along with other government agencies, but their current classification doesn’t just make them and their contributions in the military seem insignificant, it makes it difficult to transport them back to the U.S. and leaves them with without veterinary care after they are retired.
At retirement they’re merely considered excess equipment and receive no medical benefits, despite the range of problems they may develop from physical issues to psychological ones resulting from the trauma of violence, which can make finding a forever home mission impossible.
Early this spring, the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act (H.R. 1043, S. 2134) was introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina and would reclassify MWDs as Canine Members of the Armed Forces, which will benefit MWDs in three major ways without costing taxpayers a dime.
If MWDs are retired outside of the U.S., the cost of bringing them home falls on a potential adopter and can cost a few thousand dollars. This legislation will standardize practices for transporting MWDs back to the states and taken to the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where most of the MWD adoptions take place, which could include accepting frequent flyers so MWDs can fly commercial airlines.
Currently, the cost of healthcare for retired MWDs also falls on the shoulders of adopters and it can get expensive considering the host of problems they may be suffering from that range from injuries, illnesses or other issues, such as PTSD.
By some estimates, more than 5 percent of the approximately 650 military dogs deployed by American combat forces are developing canine PTSD. Of those, about half are likely to be retired from service, according to Dr. Walter F. Burghardt Jr., chief of behavioral medicine at the Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base.
This legislation would provide medical care for adopted MWDs for life by authorizing the Secretary of Defense to contract with a non-profit to provide veterinary care without using any federal funds.
While the lives and service of MWDs have been recognized with medals and awards, they’re not really official. This legislation would empower the Department of Defense to formally honor dogs who are killed in action, or who perform an “exceptionally meritorious or courageous act,” giving them the recognition they deserve.
Please sign the petition asking your representative to support the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act.
Photo credit: The U.S. Army