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.
- Retired Military Working Dogs are stranded at their final duty station.
- Military Working Dogs receive no medical benefits after retirement.
- Military Working Dogs receive no recognition for their faithful service.
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?
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.
“’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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