Congress Passes Legislation to Protect Retired Military Working Dogs

Petty Officer 2nd Class Blake Soller, a Military Working Dog (MWD) handler pets the head of MWD Rico, at the War Dog Cemetery located on Naval Base Guam.

Legislation to protect military working dogs (MWDs) cleared Congress and awaits a signature from President Barack Obama. The measure will streamline the adoption process for retired military dogs, as well as authorize a system of veterinary care for the retired dogs at no expense to taxpayers, said the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

The measure, an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, and was introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in the U.S. Senate and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Military working dogs are so crucial to the safety of our service members, and it is our job to provide them with the love and care that they so honorably deserve when they are retired,” said Rep. Jones in an ASPCA statement.

Currently, military working dogs are classified as “military equipment.” When the dogs are retired, they are considered excess equipment and are given away. Most frequently, the dogs’ handlers adopt them, but if the dogs are overseas, the  service member must pay for the dog’s transport back to the U.S.

“Once that dog is adopted, it becomes a pet, and therefore loses its MWD status,” explained Air Force Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog in a 2009 interview. “So it would be fraud, waste and abuse for the DOD to transport that pet.”

The new legislation will make the adoption process simpler and provide assistance in transporting the dogs back to the U.S.

Civilians can also adopt retired military working dogs, as well as dogs who don’t quite make it through the rigors of training, through the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Training School and Lackland Air Force Base, near San Antonio, Texas. Law enforcement agencies and prior handlers are given priority, but a small number of dogs are adopted by civilians, according to the 341st Training Squadron’s website.  The website estimates a 12-month wait for civilians to adopt military working dogs as pets.

(Photo Credit: Petty Officer 2nd Class John F. Looney, U.S. Navy)

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