By Robin Ganzert, PHD
One thing that we all get to look forward to is retirement, a time to relax, to spend more time with our loved ones, and, most importantly, to not have to worry about work.
“Some estimate that each military dog saves the lives of between 150-200 soldiers.”
But did you know that, as important as retirement is to people after a lifetime of work, it’s equally important for animals after a lifetime of service. Many working animals get to spend their post-working years as family pets, but some, who put their lives on the line every day, can’t even come home.
Today, Military Working Dogs (MWDs) are more important than ever in keeping our service men and women safe. With noses 100,000 times more sensitive than humans’, they have the ability to sniff out and detect weapons caches and IEDs, and it’s estimated that each military working dog saves the lives of between 150-200 soldiers.
When not keeping soldiers out of harm’s way, the dogs provide our troops with companionship and a sense of normalcy under almost unimaginable circumstances.
Clearly a military dog is a soldier’s best friend.
But for all the heroic work these canines do for those who protect our country, many are not able to come once their tour of duty ends.
If a MWD is retired in a non-combat zone overseas, the military does not provide transportation home. Once the dog is retired, they are no longer considered military dogs, and therefore, they are not legally allowed to be transported on military aircraft. Other military dogs known as Contract Working Dogs (CWDs) are owned by private companies and not subject to regulations mandating they come home.
The solutions are simple: MWDs should be brought home before being retired. If dogs would be shipped back home prior to retirement, then they can legally fly on military aircraft. And we believe it makes sense to include stipulations in government contracts with such private companies to bring CWDs back to U.S. soil once they retire.
American Humane Association has been working with Mission K9 Rescue to bring back many of our military hero dogs and reunite them with their hero handlers. But systemic changes need to be made, and we went to Capitol Hill in July with three military dog teams to spotlight the importance of military dogs. After a lifetime of service, don’t our four-legged soldiers deserve a relaxing retirement?
We think so. Like our retired veterans, it’s the least we can do for them.
To help bring home all our four-footed veterans please go here. Thank you!
The group photo is of (left to right) Sgt. Jason Bos and MWD Cila, Sgt. Deano Miller and CWD Thor, and Sgt. James Harrington and MWD Ryky.