Military dogs serve with courage and love! When their job is done they’re reclassified as mere equipment! It’s just not right!
It seems that “dogs are man’s best friend,” to the Pentagon, “A man’s best friend is his equipment.” Military dogs can be left behind when the troops come home, because of legal niceties!
It’s complicated! Military dogs are drafted to identify enemy locations, to locate bombs and to protect bases. It is dangerous, often traumatic, work. The dogs are credited for saving countless lives, which is why the Taliban actively target our dogs of war. While on active service, each dog is given a higher rank than their handler.
This status continues right up until the moment the military dogs are “retired.” Once they are too old, too shell-shocked or just not needed, the dogs are automatically reclassified as equipment that can be left like a tent. The military sometimes says they are “retired” and become “civilians,” but the outcome is the same, since these civilians don’t have a right to military transport home. What a crying shame!
“While there is a proper, legal classification for a working dog, we know they are living things, and we have great respect and admiration for them,” said Gerry Proctor, a spokesman for Lackland Air Force Base. “A handler would never speak of their dog as a piece of equipment. The dog is their partner. You can walk away from a damaged tank, but not your dog. Never.”
If you ever talked to a military dog handler, or even if you simply had a dog, chances are you know the obvious truth of this. Watch the 2013 Animal Planet documentary about U.S. war dogs in Afghanistan, “Glory Hounds,” to see not merely how vital these animals are, but also how powerful the bond between the handler and his canine comrades is. “The relationship between you and your dog is the most important part of your partnership,” Lance Cpl. Kent Ferrell, whose German shepherd, Zora, is trained to both attack the enemy and find explosives, explains in the film. “Your dog has to be able to trust you.”
It is one thing to ask these warriors to say goodbye to their dog when he is still on active duty and assigned a new handler. It is quite another to ask them to leave these dogs behind once the dogs are effectively abandoned overseas, left in shelters – or worse. That’s why handlers are sometimes forced to make incredible sacrifices to get their four-legged partners home on their own.
Organizations such as the United States War Dogs Association, the American Humane Association and K9s of the War on Terror do heroic work to reunite them whenever possible, at no taxpayer expense. One need only watch the videos these amazing reunions to see that the effort was worth it.
Legislation pushed by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., that would require military dogs to be retired only upon their return to the United States has been languishing in Congress for many years. Politically, and morally, it’s obvious that the top priority must be given to providing human veterans with sufficient care, particularly amid the terrible Veterans Affairs scandals hounding the Obama administration. No politician wants to be accused of caring much more about dogs than people.
But is that not an incorrect choice? The expense of finding room on military transports is negligible, according to many. Private organizations can handle others.
“There are those who consider our military working dogs to be pieces of gear,” Ferrell says in “Glory Hounds.” “I, for one, do not believe that at all. To try to remove your heart from the situation is really asking too much of a handler.”
Images: DVIDSHUB/Flickr, The U.S. Army/Flickr
Source: Trib LIVE