Military Working Dogs: Equipment or Service Members?

Photo courtesy of Kevin Hanrahan.

Army veteran Kevin Hanrahan and author of Paws on the Ground has taken up the campaign to have military working dogs recognized as members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Currently, military dogs who have saved thousands of lives are considered equipment.

Kevin has given me permission to republish his blog posts. Here are the words of a man who oversaw the Working Dog Program for United States Forces in Afghanistan from, May 2010 to May 2011:

Author and blogger Kevin Hanrahan.

By Kevin Hanrahan

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.

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.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Hanrahan.

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.

You can read Kevin Hanrahan’s full blog post advocating for legislation that recognizes Military Working Dogs as Service Members HERE.

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4 Responses

  1. Service members under all aspects, as they support and care wounded warriors, done them the possibility to win invisible wound, to be new men after a long war against this enemy. This confer not dogs the title of warriors adn members of army?
    On my opinion yes Claudio Alpaca

  2. this is shameful

  3. THIS, LIKE MANY THINGS ABOUT OUR GOVERNMENT IS UNEXCEPTABLE TO ME. IT IS ALWAYS ABOUT MONEY!

    THESE ANIMALS ARE SOLDIERS IN MY EYES, HERO’S!

    THE MILITARY DOESN’T PAY THEM FOR WHAT THEY DO. AT LEAST MAKE THEN DEPENDANTS OF THEIR HANDLERS & GIVE THEM WHATEVER BENEFITS THEY NEED.

    DO SERVE MEN HAVE TO PAY FOR THEIR TRIP HOME? WHY SHOULD IT COST THEM TO HAVE THEIR “CANINE SOLDIER” TO BE BROUGHT HOME?

    WHY NOT HONOR WHAT THESE AMAZING ANIMALS HAVE DONE? HONESTLY, WHO IS IT GOING TO HURT? AREN’T THE LIVES OF ALL THOSE THEY HAVE SAVED WORTH HONORING?

    IF NOT FOR WHAT THESE ANIMALS DO, WE AS, A COUNTRY WOULD HAVE BURIED “THOUSANDS” OF OUR SONS, DAUGHTERS, FATHERS, MOTHERS, BROTHERS & SISTERS. WHAT WOULD THAT HAVE COST THIS COUNTRY?

    WOULDN’T IT BE “CHEAPER” TO JUST SEND THE “CANINE SOLDIERS” HOME & GIVE THEM THE BENEFITS THAT ALL SOLDIERS, 2 LEGS OR 4 LEGS HAVE EARNED?

  4. Is there a petition for their benefits? Is there a push for a bill in congress?
    These dogs did not volunteer for the military, the least we can do is help them live out their lives in comfort.

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