Leave No Dog Behind

Brian Reynolds on the perversity of leaving canine soldiers behind

By Brian Reynolds

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Photo credit: Sam Faulkner

“I will never leave a fallen comrade.” This single statement is an integral part of the Soldier’s Creed that every member of the armed forces lives by. We’ve seen this creed in action in Hollywood films like Black Hawk Down, where soldiers literally battle through hell to try and save their comrades. Unfortunately our canine soldiers are not getting the same treatment. They’re fighting alongside our brave men and women in uniform and then are being discarded like a used artillery shell.

The problem stems from current US law. The military classifies their working dogs as “equipment” and as a result they do not have to be returned to American soil at the end of their service life. This means that after years of diligently serving their country, these canine soldiers are being left in shelters in foreign lands like Afghanistan instead of finding a home in the country for which they so valiantly fought. These honorable military working dogs are being abandoned instead of receiving the retirement they deserve.

Dr. Robin Ganzert, president of the American Humane Association, told The Daily Signal, “Because of their great ability to seek enemy positions, sniff out IEDs and weapons caches, they’re saving so many lives. It’s allowing mothers and fathers to come home from war and see their kiddos, and sons and daughters to come home from war. These dogs are doing a great, heroic service.” According to Dr. Ganzert a military working dog could potentially save the lives of 150 to 200 soldiers during their deployment. With these dogs providing such incredible benefits, it’s no wonder that there are approximately 2,500 military working dogs with about 500 deployed at any given time.

Military working dogs are assigned a handler and a strong bond is immediately formed. The canine officer always carries a higher rank than their handler. This reminds serviceman paired up with the military dog to respect their canine companion in the same manner they would a superior officer. Soldiers working alongside these K9 officers understand the incredible benefits of working with these fiercely loyal animals.

The Humane Association and Mission K9 are working to get the language of the National Defense Authorization Act changed so no military working dog is left behind. These laws need to change so we can bring our canine veterans home to be cared for by either their handlers or an adoptive family. Our military dog veterans deserve better.