Opinion: Protecting our military dogs

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Dogs have been assisting U.S. military personnel in war about as long as the U.S. has been going to war, as we write in an editorial Monday.

Dogs are trained in a program run by the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and then deployed worldwide to assist all branches of the service in patrolling, explosives detection or combat tracking.

However, the elite Special Operations forces operate their own separate working dog training program -- presumably the provenance of the dog that accompanied the commandos on the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

Astonishingly, for 50 years, military working dogs were euthanized upon their retirement from service. ‘There was no provision that gave military kennels the ability to do anything otherwise,’ said Gerry Proctor, a spokesman at Lackland Air Force Base.


That changed when a federal law was passed in 2000 permitting retired military dogs to be adopted out. It is often called the Robby Law, after an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois military dog who, crippled with arthritis, was retired from Marine Corps service and slated for euthanasia. His handler, denied permission to adopt the dog, took his struggle public, attracting the attention of thousands of animal lovers. A news story caught the eye of U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) who drafted the bill that became law. (Robby’s condition so deteriorated that the dog had to be euthanized for health reasons in early 2001.)

Now, dogs either return to the Lackland military working dog program to help train handlers or they are adopted out. The waiting list of people eager to adopt a working dog is about six months long, according to Proctor. Lackland has an official adoption website with more information.


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--Carla Hall