Bill Offers Reprieve for Doomed Military Dogs
Retired Animals Could Be Adopted by Qualified Handlers
Oct. 11, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Military dogs at the end of their
service could get a new lease on life under a bill approved by the House
on Tuesday night.
The legislation, which was passed by voice vote and sent
to the Senate, would allow former military handlers, law enforcement
agencies and other qualified people to adopt the animals. The commander
of the dog's last unit would decide whether the dog is suitable for
adoption after considering recommendations of the unit veterinarian.
Under current Pentagon policy, military dogs cannot be
adopted even though civilian police dogs often find homes with their
The Defense Department cages and eventually euthanizes
military dogs when they are too old or sick to work, according to Rep.
Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., who introduced the bill.
The Defense Department's Dog Center said, however, that
military dogs are euthanized primarily for medical reasons; others die
from natural causes.
Units often send retiring dogs to Lackland Air Force
Base in San Antonio, where the animals are used in training dog
handlers. Retired dogs can be released to civilian law enforcement
agencies but not to members of the public because of concerns the
government might be held liable if the dog injures someone.
No government liability
Bartlett's bill would require those receiving the dogs
to agree they would not hold the federal government responsible for
damages, injury or other losses after the transfer.
Working dogs have assisted American fighting forces in
nearly every U.S. conflict. They have been trained and used to alert
troops to ambushes; find booby traps, land mines and other hidden
explosives; act as decoys to draw enemy fire; and to search for downed
More than 30,000 military dogs have served the in the
military since World War II. The military currently has about 1,800 dogs
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