Animal Writes
28 January 2001 Issue

from Georgiana/Richard Bishop - [email protected] 


As fireworks flew in our nation's capitol, eleven-year-old Robby, known to the Dept. of Defense as "military working dog number W005," whose illness and dedication to his handler incited a firestorm leading to the passage of the first war dog retirement bill (HR 5314/Public Law 106-446), was being euthanized at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, where he had been "under evaluation" since October.

The decision by the Air Force was not totally unexpected. Still, it was a very unpleasant surprise, both to Congressman Bartlett's office and to members of the "Save Robby Campaign." Bartlett contacted the Secretary of the Air Force, asking for a "stay of execution" until there was conclusive evidence that Robby's medical condition was indeed beyond hope. Meanwhile, Ms. Nicole Miller of the Congressman's staff contacted Save Robby founding member, Dr. Bill Putney, DVM and sent him Robby's medical records. Ms. Miller also contacted Tom Johnston, Chairman of the "Save Robby Campaign," to see if there was any possibility of finding a home for Robby should he be released from the military.

Beverly Gainer and Mary Thurston of Austin, Texas were contacted and a home was found for Robby, conditional on Dr. Putney's decision after having reviewed Robby's medical records and consulted with Colonel L.G. Carpenter, the veterinarian at Lackland Air Force Base. After reviewing the records and
speaking with Colonel Carpenter, Dr. Putney said that Robby's arthritic lesions on his spine had worsened to the point where he was in constant pain, and the medications were no longer helping. The only way to keep Robby from being in pain was to drug him to a comatose state. Considering this, we agreed that it would be best to let Robby go.

The Save Robby Campaign had been in the middle of trying to get an update on Robby's condition when it received news of the AF's plans for euthanization. Initial requests from Congressman Bartlett's office for an update on his physical condition after the holidays were rejected on the grounds of national security. Then, late Thursday afternoon, the AF made a sudden turnabout and agreed to fax Robby's latest health report to the Congressman -- at the same time mentioning that he would be killed the next morning.

Robby served his country and above and beyond the call of duty. Because of him, thousands of compassionate citizens were moved to speak out on behalf of all the war dogs. Because of Robby, we now have the first retirement law for war dogs on the federal books.

But there remains much to be done. HR 5314 (Public Law 106-446) merely gives the military the option of retirement, and judging by how they handled Robby's situation, it seems they will resist implementing the law as long as they can think they can get away with it. For years the Air Force knew Robby had a progressive, deteriorating arthritic condition, and, with the signing of the law in November, they could have released the dog to his handler to live out his final months in a normal home. Instead they chose to keep him at Lackland Air Force Base "for evaluation."

We bid farewell to Robby. His tour is done, his spirit is free. We, on the other hand, will continue the fight for true freedom for all the other "Robbies" who continue to serve (an estimated two hundred "Robbies" are euthanized every year when they get too old to do their jobs). Congressman Bartlett is equally determined to see the new retirement law implemented.

We have already written to Colonel Carpenter and Congressman Bartlett to request that the cremated remains of Robby and any other dogs that are euthanized be released so they can be interred with honors in Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, home to the first national war dog monument (dedicated in 1923), where an annual memorial service complete with the Fallen Soldier Salute is performed, this year on June 17 (Tom Johnston will be keynote speaker this year).

To learn more about Hartsdale, see 

Many, many thanks to everybody who cared and spoke out on this important issue. Without you, Robby would have been wiped from the annals of our nation's history, just another anonymous, numbered piece of "equipment" who served without complaint and then was disposed of like a junked jeep.

For continuing updates on the Robby Campaign, see 

which also has a direct link to the SAVE ROBBY website.

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