Reprinted with permission from LTC Kevin Hanrahan in Dog Advocate
""There has been a lot of confusion and misinformation about the Canine Members of the Armed Service Act.
The original act, sponsored by Congressmen Walter Jones (R-NC) and Senator Blumenthal (D-CT), addressed three main tenets of Military Working Dog rights:
1. Retirement and Adoption of Military Working Dogs:
Authorizes the Secretary of the appropriate military department to transport retiring military working dogs to the 341st Training Squadron or another suitable location for adoption, if no suitable adoption is available at the military facility where the dog is located.
2. Veterinary Care for Retired Military Working Dogs:
Directs the Secretary of Defense to establish and maintain a system to provide for the veterinary care of retired military working dogs beginning on the date on which the dog is adopted.
3. Recognition of Service of Military Working Dogs:
Directs the Secretary of Defense to create a decoration or other appropriate recognition to recognize military working dogs that are killed in action or perform an exceptionally meritorious or courageous act in service to the United States.
Lucca, a 8-year-old Belgian Malinois military working dog, rests in the shade at Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 2. Lucca deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan where she was injured by an improvised explosive device. The injury led to the amputation of her left front leg and retirement from military service. Cpl. Juan M. Rodriguez, miliary dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, is scheduled to escort the veteran K-9, July 5, from the base to Finland where she will reside with Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham, Lucca’s original trainer. During a turnover at O-Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill., Lucca will be honored during a ceremony by American Airlines, which will provide transportation to Rodriguez and Lucca through its partnership with Air Compassion for Veterans. ACV is an organization that provides medically related air transport services to service members, veterans and their families. During her military service, Lucca uncovered more than 40 IEDs and saved countless lives.
The act passed the House of Representatives last spring and the Senate this fall. The Canine Member of the Armed Service Act can be seen in this Senate Bill Text. The next step was supposed to be a simple signature by our President.
So this was a huge victory for our Military Dogs, right?
Somewhere along the way the act was attached to the conglomerate National Defense Authorization Act for 2013. That beast of an act was signed into law by the President right before Christmas 2012.
So Canine Members of the Armed Service and their advocates win, right?
Unfortunately, the whole of the original Senate Bill Text wasn’t included into the National Defense Act and signed into law. For details, you can see for yourself here (go to p. 167) what part of the original Canine Member of the Armed Service Act made it into the National Defense Act for 2013.
The short of it is we got the transportation and medical care for our retired military dogs, but we took a swing and missed with our government’s recognizing our Military Working Dogs as members of the Armed Service.
So what happened? I thought we made it through the House of Representatives and Senate?
According to Ron Aiello, President of the United States War Dog Association, “The Senate did not pass the full resolution. It was decided by the Senate that to get the bill passed they had to take out a portion of it. That portion was the reclassification of the Military Working Dogs from Equipment to Canine Members of the Armed Forces.”
So what happened in the Senate? Why did they “have” to remove a portion?
Cpl. Bret Reynolds and Bernie, a retired military working dog, sit on their bed. Once her handler, now her proud owner, Reynolds is excited to be able to bring her home. Unlike many law enforcement working dogs, military working dogs live in kennels aboard the air station. Bernie’s friendly nature makes getting along with Reynolds’ other dogs a breeze, and Bernie enjoys playing with them, even at 11 years old.
According to Lisa Phillips, CEO of the Retired Military Working Dog Assistance Organization, “Senator McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, did not want any part of the bill/amendment to go forward at all.”
Lisa was told by a member of Senator Blumenthal’s staff that Senator McCain was the Senior Committee Member on the National Defense Committee and he had ultimate say.
I called Senator McCain’s office but was unable to confirm what Senator Blumenthal’s staff reported. I plan to draft a letter to his office this week. I’ll keep you all posted on the outcome.
I would like to know the truth but honestly doubt that Senator McCain (if this went down the way Senator Blumenthal’s staff reported) would admit this publicly.
This is disappointing. But don’t forget—we have taken a huge step in the advancement of Military Working Dog rights and care.
So we won right?
We sure as heck did!
But there is more to do!
Senator Blumenthal’s staff indicated that Senator McCain heard plenty from WMD organizations and you, the constituents, who contacted his office and other members of the National Defense Committee. They felt the pressure from all of you!
2013 is a new year and the fight for Military Working Dog rights isn’t over. Both Ron and Lisa indicated that the reclassification issue will be re-addressed this year!
The more we talk about it–the more you contact your politicians in support of MWD rights, the more press and attention these four-legged service members receive–the more the pressure on our politicians to recognize their contribution increases.
Your dog at home isn’t just your pet—he or she is a family member!
Military Working Dogs aren’t equipment—they are service members!
So please keep it up! This year is a new fight, and we won’t rest until our four-legged service members are officially recognized by our government!""