Soldiers and MIlitary Working Dogs at Forward Operating Base Wilson

Urgent! Write Your Legislators!

Ask them to support the bill that recognizes military working dogs as members of the armed forces!

Currently working dogs are classified as equipment in the military.

  1. Retired Military Working Dogs are stranded at their final duty station.
  2. Military Working Dogs receive no medical benefits after retirement.
  3. Military Working Dogs receive no recognition for their faithful service.
Military Working Dog Anax looking up

I lost a leg for my country. Do I look like equipment?

Let me tell you what this means from a Soldier’s perspective. Let’s take our hero Military Working Dog Anax who lost a leg fighting for his country? Specialist Marc Whittaker and Anax are currently stationed in Germany. Marc is adopting the retired military working dog. Transporting Anax back to the United States could cost Marc anywhere from $500-$1000. If you have ever been a specialist in the military as I have, you know Marc’s pockets aren’t lined with cash.

We in the Army are retiring our military dogs sooner than ever before. Many of these four-legged troopers have multiple combat deployments. Currently the person who is kind enough to adopt these heroes must pay their bills.

How is Specialist Marc Whittaker going to pay for the future care of the three-legged Soldier that took a bullet meant for him? I have talked to many senior leaders in the Department of Defense Military Working dog program and every single one on them told me a story of their troops who weren’t able to adopt their working dogs because they wouldn’t be able to afford the veterinarian costs. Can you imagine having to give up your own dog because you can’t afford the veterinarian bills? This happens to our service members all the time.

You may ask yourself why should we give dogs recognition in the form of a medal or award? Shouldn’t we just give them some extra Milkbones?

My answer: Medals are simple trinkets. I have a drawer full of them. But the symbolism behind them is what is important. The working dog may not quite understand the medal, but their fellow service members will. Service members need to know that their fellow warrior’s commitment and sacrifices, whether they be two-legged or four-legged, will be recognized. They need to know that their sacrifices have meaning.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: these four-legged warriors’ contribution to the fight is unquantifiable. If a working dog finds one 40 lb. Improvised Explosive Device and prevents it from being detonated, how many fellow warriors’ lives and limbs did he or she just save?

Airman and MIlitary Working Dog

When I oversaw the Working Dog Program for United States Forces in Afghanistan from May 2010 to May 2011, workings dogs prevented thousands of IEDs and other explosives from being used against our troops. These four-legged warriors risk their lives. They ask for only one thing in return: the unconditional love of their handler.

Commanders on the ground have recognized these four-legged service member’s contributions and many times have presented them unofficial hero’s medals. But they are not officially recognized by the Department of Defense.

Fortunately for our Warriors, organization such as United States War Dog Association, Retired Military Working Dog Assistance and Military Working Dog Adoptions have stepped in to provide support in all facets of these three inequalities—medals, vet care, transport—for our four-legged Veterans.

So why does the military treat their dogs as equipment and not provide for the four-legged warriors as they do for their two-legged? Federal law ties the military’s hands.

We can change these antiquated laws, though, thanks to the dedicated work of the three organizations mentioned above. This past week, Congressmen Walter Jones (R-NC) and Senator Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the bipartisan bill now titled the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act. The bill reclassifies military working dogs as canine members of the armed forces and states that they shall not be classified as equipment.

The three main tenets of the bill are:

1. Retirement and Adoption of Military Working Dogs:

Authorizes the Secretary of the appropriate military department to transport retiring military working dogs to the 341st Training Squadron or another suitable location for adoption, if no suitable adoption is available at the military facility where the dog is located.

2. Veterinary Care for Retired Military Working Dogs:

Directs the Secretary of Defense to establish and maintain a system to provide for the veterinary care of retired military working dogs beginning on the date on which the dog is adopted.

3. Recognition of Service of Military Working Dogs:

Directs the Secretary of Defense to create a decoration or other appropriate recognition to recognize military working dogs that are killed in action or perform an exceptionally meritorious or courageous act in service to the United States.Marine and his Military Working Dog

I borrowed this quote with permission from Maria Goodavage, editor at Dogster and author of the forthcoming book Soldier Dogs who wrote an excellent piece on the legislation:

“’It is time that we as a nation recognize the importance and contributions of Military Working Dogs, and this can be done by elevating their status to Canine Members of the Armed Force,’ said Representative Walter B. Jones (R-NC), who introduced the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). ‘These dogs are a crucial asset to the US Armed Forces and have saved countless American lives during the past decade of conflict.’”

As a United States Army Officer, I say thank you to these two fine men and all the organizations that have worked so hard to introduce this bill.

If you want to help the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act pass, let your senator or representative know you support it. Click here for a list of contact information for U.S Senators and congresspersons in the U.S. House of Representatives. These are the legislative IDs for the legislation. I recommend you mention these in your correspondence. House: H.R.4103. Senate: S.2134.

For more info on the bill and how to contact your representatives visit the Retired Military Working Dog Assistance Organization or visit their Facebook page. Their web site has a form letter for you to use when drafting a letter for your representative asking them to vote in favor of this bill.

What are your thoughts on this legislation?

Who out there knows of a case that this law would help when passed?

Please share your thoughts and comments.

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33 thoughts on “Urgent! Write Your Legislators!

  1. Robert "Sharky" Pruneda

    Thanks for sharing Kevin! I am a proud Guardian Member of the ASPCA and was inspired by this article. I have contacted my U.S. Representative and both Senators encouraging them to support this Act.

    God bless!

    1. Kevin Hanrahan

      Thank you so much Robert. The more people that get behind this the more momentum we will have get it passed so please spread the word.

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  3. Adriana Johnson


    Thank you for explaing your passion regarding these animals and solidiers. Thank you for having a friendly user link and ACT ID numbers, Brilliant. I just wrote both of my Senators they have heard of me before:). Prayers on this cause.

    Adriana Johnson

    1. Kevin Hanrahan

      Thank you so much Adriana. The more folks that take action the better chance we have of taking care of our 4-legged troops!

  4. Abbey the Bloodhound

    Abbey the Bloodhound (Facebook) support all my brothers of the Military, Police and all working K0′s

  5. Rhonda Hansen

    I mentioned to you a while back that I’d just finished reading Sargent Rex, I’m pretty confident this article is about him….he and his handler need prayers and good wishes, along with letters to our legislators. They were both injured by an IED in Iraq, she’s trying to adopt him before he’s put to sleep. He’s served his country well and has more than earned a cushy retirement with someone who loves him! Kevin, perhaps you will know of a way to reach her and put her in touch with the resources mentioned in your post….

    I will also be sending letters to my FL representatives regarding your post….these dogs give SO much, they have more than earned a comfortable retirement, appropriate care, and recognition for their sacrifices.

    1. Kevin Hanrahan

      Hi Rhonda. I just watched the video and started tweeting about this. Thanks for posting the video here.

      1. Rhonda Hansen

        glad to do it! And thank you for your tweets and getting involved, it broke my heart to read that story and seems so unfair to our service members, both the 4 legged variety and their 2 legged partners.

  6. aj Melnick

    Many of the members of our Santa Fe Working Dog Club will write letters to our Congressmen. I have amended the original letter and used some of your words as well. I am sure the Congressmen willl support the bill.They are known for their compassion. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. It’s important to me.

    1. Kevin Hanrahan

      Thanks so much AJ. Your organization is awesome and with folks like you on the team I am certain we can get this legislation passed.

  7. Jonathan Aluzas

    Absolutely and totally in support of this legislation. They work on behalf of their fellow soldiers and on behalf of their nation. And, considering they have been forced into duty by conscription, they deserve at the very least to be cared for during and after their service.

  8. Rebecca M

    Totally agree! As an army wife I know just too well what our soldiers, no matter if on feet or paws, go through. Our military dogs also deserve respect and being honored. They will never think twice and they won’t leave your side. Can’t say that about most humans.
    I also know how much a dog flight ticket costs, we had to pay around $700 to take our dog from Germany back to the US.
    They deserve their ticket, vet care (incl. special equipment if needed) and all the honor and respect for being brave and totally unselfish out there.
    And I also would welcome if the press would report more about our brave paws out there and all the lives they saved!

    1. Kevin Hanrahan

      Hi Rebecca. Thank you. Was your pooch a military dog? When I was stationed in Germany I didn’t have a dog. But right now a young hero like Marc has to pay to bring home the dog that took a bullet for him. Really? What crap is that! Marc is a specialist. Do you know how much money they make a month? I know when I was a specialist it wasn’t very much.

      These dogs deserve not only respect but also the care to see that they have a decent retirement. It is cheap money compared to the amount of lives they have saved.

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  11. steven j anderson

    being a Marine from when we were still messin around in central america, i thought the USMC dogs WERE Marines!?! we always treated them as such when i was in, same as when i was a cop in the Chicago suburbs, but VERY much so in the Corps. they’re NOT?? thats crap, probably because that scumbag Murtha accused one of biting a terrorist

    1. Kevin Hanrahan

      I think the troops def consider these dogs as fellow warriors.We just need the politicians to follow suite and pass this law. That way we can provide the appropriate level of care to them.

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