Military Working Dogs: Adopt a friend for life

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kelley J. Stewart
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
When most people think about adopting a pet, they think about the Humane Society not retired military working dogs.

The 106th Congress passed a Public Law Nov. 6, 2000, allowing law enforcement agencies, military working dog handlers and other capable caretakers to adopt them.

Military working dogs cannot work their entire lives, and unlike human servicemembers, there is no retirement village for them. They have to be either adopted or euthanized.

People considering adopting a retired military working dog have to be emotionally and financially ready for the dog's needs.

"Some of these dogs, when they're adopted out, are on medication, and it can be costly" said Tech. Sgt. Eric Brown, 52nd Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer.

"The medication is mostly for joint pain because these dogs are older and have worked for a long time," said Staff Sgt Chad Brown, 52nd SFS military working dog handler.

Public Law also absolves the U.S. from any veterinary expenses associated with retired working dogs, and adoptive owners obtain the animal's veterinary records upon adoption.

The age ranges of older adoptable military working dogs vary by breed. A dog's service during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom also contribute to and earlier retirement age. Dogs used to be adopted at ages 10 and 11 -- now they're being adopted at 7 or 8.

Some of the reasons for the earlier retirement age are climbing in and out of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, climbing up and down stairs, and walking on harsh terrain.

Not all injuries are physical. Some military working dogs return with post-traumatic stress disorder. Some don't like loud noises and are unable to perform the military mission.

"It's not a major problem if the animal is a pet," said Staff Sgt. Brown. "It is a problem for a working dog because we want them to work for us."

People who want to adopt a retired military working dog should go to the kennels and ask if a dog is available for adoption. Prospective adopters will be placed on a list if there are multiple people interested in adoption. People will also be interviewed to ensure they have the right homes for a retired working dog. Some of the questions they'll be asked include: Do they have time for the animal, do they have a yard, do they have small children or teenagers, and do they have any experience with dogs.

It is important for proactive adopters to know whether the dog they are seeking is good around small children or not. According to the dog handlers, some military working dogs are better around children than others.

One of the reasons people get asked about their time and the size of their yard is because working dogs are used to activity, and with joint pain, it's very important that they move around.

"It's really bad for them to lie around if they have joint pain," Staff Sgt. Brown said. "They're really going to tense up and deteriorate. They still need a lot of exercise. It will keep them from locking up."

Even though these animals are trained military working dogs, people who adopt them don't require any special training. These dogs are just like non-military working dogs in that they enjoy walks, chasing balls, and playing.

Adopting a military working dog also requires a liability waiver. The waiver exempts the U.S. from any lawsuits that may arise due to property damage or personal injury after the dog is adopted.

Another reason a dog might be adopted is they quit working.

"We have minimum standards for the dogs, and once we establish the fact they can't meet those standards anymore, depending on their health, they can either go to the K-9 school at Lackland (Air Force Base, Texas) or be put up for adoption," said Tech. Sgt. Brown.

There is a certain mystique about military working dogs - they're fierce, they're dangerous - that's just the mystique. Most of these dogs also are loyal, obedient and affectionate.

People who don't want to adopt an older military working dog have the option to adopt a younger dog from the military working dog school at Lackland. These dogs range in age from 1 to 4 years and, for one reason or another, are not qualified to be a working dog.

People interested in adopting a younger dog can visit and view a list of working dogs that have been put up for adoption. The application for adoption also can be found at this Web site. The only expense incurred with the adoption of any military working dog is what it costs to transport the animal home.