A major victory for military dogs everywhere was won yesterday with the bipartisan passage of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by both the House of Representatives and Senate, and its signature into law by the President. For the first time, language in the bill, supported by American Humane Association, mandates that our heroic military working dogs will be returned to U.S. soil upon retirement, and that their human handlers and their families – to whom these dogs mean more than anyone else –will be given first right of adoption. It is estimated that each military dog saves the lives of between 150-200 servicemen and women by detecting IEDs and hidden weapons caches. The language was introduced in the House and the Senate by Congressman Frank LoBiondo and Senator Claire McCaskill.
Prior to the passage of this groundbreaking act, military working dogs were not guaranteed retirement on the home front, and some were retired overseas, making them civilians and rendering them ineligible for transportation home on military aircraft. Over the past year, American Humane Association has privately funded the transportation home of 21 military working dogs and contract working dogs and helped reunite them with their former human handlers. In July of 2014, American Humane Association held a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill to shed light on the need to bring home all our veterans and press for long-overdue changes to the NDAA.
“This is a momentous day for all veterans,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane Association president and CEO. “We applaud Congress and the President for passing and signing the bill with the language we provided and stepping up for our brave K-9 Battle Buddy teams who have benefited and will continue to benefit from their service together.”
“The NDAA and its passage will ensure that our four-legged veterans will finally have their chance to come home and live a comfortable quiet life, hopefully with a handler they deployed with or a fellow veteran,” said Lance Corporal Jeff DeYoung, USMC (Ret.) who was reunited with his Military War Dog Cena with the help of American Humane Association. “The language in the NDAA is about healing, healing veterans and their families. These dogs have so much love to give…it’s time we show some in return.”
Lifesaving Work Continues at Home
For some of our brave servicemen and women, the return home from war is not the end of the battle. Every year thousands of our nation’s veterans are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, and easing back into society is difficult or even terrifying. Reuniting handlers and war dogs (who themselves can suffer from PTS) helps both heal. In this way the bond between veterans that saved lives on the battlefield now saves lives at home.
A happy – and healthy – retirement for America’s military hero dogs
The passage of the 2016 NDAA is the second major victory for military dogs accomplished with the help of American Humane Association. In its July 2014 briefing, the organization called on the private sector to provide veterinary care for all retired military dogs. On Veterans Day 2014, American Humane Association announced an arrangement with New Jersey’s Red Bank Veterinary Hospital to provide free specialized veterinary care to all retired canine veterans.
“These heroes have served their country with valor, and saved the lives of our servicemen and women while risking their own,” said John Payne, chairman of the board for American Humane Association. “It is essential that we step up and care for these warriors who did – and continue to do – so much for us and all those who served alongside them. We owe them a debt of gratitude.”
With their repatriation, handler adoption and specialized health care now assured, Dr. Ganzert declared, “This is a great day for military heroes on both ends of the leash. We believe ALL our veterans – two-footed and four-footed — should come back to a hero’s welcome, a loving, forever home, and the happy, healthy, and dignified retirement they so deserve after a lifetime of service to their country.”