The Cable

A New Bill Requires DoD to Bring Retired War Dogs Abroad to the U.S.

DoD isn't required to pay for the transport of retired war dogs overseas back to the United States. A new bill would change that.


Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) just introduced a bill that would require the Pentagon to cover the expense of bringing all retired military dogs back to the United States. It’s a noble effort, but it’s actually confusing issues the military working dog community holds dear.

Part of the problem is the language used by Wyden’s office in the press release announcing the bill. It says the Military Working Dog Retirement Act of 2015 “would require the Department of Defense to arrange and pay for transportation of trained military dogs to the United States when their service abroad has been deemed no longer necessary, including because of injury.”

This language allows for the misperception that the military isn’t paying for dogs who are hurt but not yet retired. According to FP’s Rebecca Frankel, who wrote a fabulous book about working dogs in the military, War Dogs, this isn’t the case: DoD pays for all active duty dogs to fly home, despite multiple, incorrect claims it doesn’t.

Wyden’s bill deals with retired military dogs who served at bases overseas. DoD is currently under no obligation to pay for the transport of these dogs, after their service is over, back to the United States. The military does, and is obligated to, secure civilian homes for all adoptable dogs. Some go to police departments, some to homes of their former handlers, while others are adopted by civilians.

Retired dogs aren’t covered because the Senate hasn’t forced the Pentagon to do so, according to Ron Aiello, president of the U.S War Dogs Association. In the 2013 Defense Authorization Act, the Senate said DoD may fund the transport of retired dogs home. But they didn’t say the Pentagon must, and so far, no money has been set aside to do so.

“It was supposed to happen, but they never did anything with it,” Aiello told FP.

His organization and others, like Mission K9 Rescue, have picked up the slack, raising money to fly retired dogs back home to live with their handlers. They also provide medical care for these retired dogs, something the Senate authorized but didn’t require the Pentagon to pay for. But that, too, hasn’t been done.

“The government never followed through,” Aiello said.

You can check out the work both organizations do here and here. That’s also where you can find the obligatory dog cuteness that comes with any post about canines. One story of a handler being reunited with his dog is in the video below.

So to be clear: The Pentagon pays for all active military dogs to fly home. It’s retired dogs overseas who aren’t covered. Wyden’s bill would change that.

Photo credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

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