Department of Defense Classifies Military Dogs as EquipmentPublished January 8, 2013
Although Military dogs are living, breathing animals, the defense department classifies them as “equipment. ”
Canines have been used in the U.S. Military ever since the Revolutionary war. These dogs saved lives, boosted morale and have contributed greatly to our fighting forces.
War dogs began their military service working as pack animals. During World War 1, their major task was killing rats in the trenches. One of the most famous WW 1 military dogs was Sergeant Stubby. He was the first war dog to be used on the Western Front, and during his 18 months of service, this plucky, unknown stray dog took part in seventeen battles.
During his career, Sgt. Stubby comforted wounded soldiers, saved a regiment from surprise mustard gas attacks and even captured a German spy; literally by the seat of his pants. His courageous exploits were prominently featured in most of the major newspapers.
Throughout World War II, over 10,000 highly trained military dogs were deployed to serve as sentry canines, scouts, mine detectors and messengers. Many of these dogs were family pets who had been “volunteered” by their owners to serve their country. Today, according to Milpages there are an estimated 2,700 military dogs serving alongside U.S. military personnel. About 600 military dogs have been deployed to Afghanistan and Kuwait. One of their most significant imperatives is sniffing out bombs.
Military canines complete a 120-day program featuring positive rewards, (with a preferred rubber toy or ball rather than food). It is designed to teach obedience and how to “sniff out” dangerous substances. These dogs become trusted partners and companions to the fellow soldiers with whom they are assigned. Approximately 300 dogs a year are retired. But what future do these loyal and courageous canines face once their tour of duty has been completed?
According to the Washington Times these canines have been classified by the military as "equipment". Upon their retirement they fall into the "surplus equipment" category - much like any obsolete military appliance, therefore are not returned back to the United States. While these dogs are no longer euthanized, (which was one of the options facing these hero dogs after the war in Vietnam was over), the United States is not willing to defray the cost of the dogs’ return home. Instead they are given away, put up for adoption or even abandoned. However, it is estimated that the dogs could be shipped back to the United States on cargo planes at little cost to taxpayers.
Recently S.2134, (The Canine Member of the Armed Forces Act) was passed by the US House and Senate to honor military dogs, declaring them as Military Working dogs, (of all breeds) and will no longer be classified as "Military Equipment.” Instead they would be returned to Lackland Air Force Base with the classification o “Military Veterans” and in recognition of their service; United States heroes. They will be evaluated, retrained or if necessary, re-homed.
The Canine Member of the Armed Forces Act was amended into and passed in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. But due to political snafus, the bill’s title was changed to “"Military Working Dog Matters" and their reclassification was deleted to keep them in the “military equipment” category.
Public input is needed to help get the bill passed and signed by the President. It will restore the bill’s original intent; removing their classification as “equipment”, changing it to “military veterans”. Our courageous military dogs, who are living and breathing animals deserve so much better than being classified as “equipment”.
Should war dogs be classified as “equipment?” What do you think? Tell us in a comment.