Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
18 October 2000 Issue

Retired Animals Could be Adopted by Qualified Handlers

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 handlers.

Routinely euthanized

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 airmen.

More than 30,000 military dogs have served the in the military since World War II. The military currently has about 1,800 dogs in service.

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