Washington, DC - Tuesday, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Walter B. Jones (R-NC) introduced the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act. The legislation would streamline the adoption of the military working dogs after they retire and improve veterinary care for them at no expense to taxpayers.
“Military working dogs have served honorably with all branches of the United States Armed Forces, as well as in the Central Intelligence Agency, Transportation Security Administration, and other government agencies. These brave and talented dogs have saved the lives of thousands of American citizens, including many of our service members, through their work in detecting intruders, drugs, and improvised explosive devices – some of the deadliest threats to our troops,” said Blumenthal. “Retired military working dogs often continue to serve at home in offering companionship and care to our veterans. For their service abroad, these dogs deserve their loyalty and dedication to be returned when they are home."
Representative Jones said, “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 Forces. These dogs are a crucial asset to the US Armed Forces and have saved countless American lives during the past decade of conflict. I would like to thank Senator Blumenthal for his leadership in the Senate and I look forward to working with him on this and other issues.”
Military working dogs (MWDs) are regarded as a highly effective means for detecting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that can be otherwise difficult, if not impossible, to find. Despite their importance, however, they are currently classified by the Department of Defense as "equipment," leaving the dogs' adopters or individual military units to bear the cost of transportation and care if they wish to transport retiring MWDs back to the United States from serving abroad.
The legislation would assist MWDs by doing the following:
Improved Adoption Process. To standardize practices regarding the transfer of retired MWDs, those without suitable adoption options at the time of their retirement could be transferred to the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. These dogs could travel to the base by commercial air by using donated travel benefits also used to facilitate the travel of our service members.
The bill directs the Secretary of Defense to award a contract to a private nonprofit entity that would establish a system of veterinary care for retired MWDs. No federal funds would be used to provide this veterinary care.
Recognition for Service. The legislation would empower the Department of Defense to honor courageous or meritorious dogs, or those killed in action, through appropriate recognition such as a letter of commendation.