War dogs: Blumenthal wants improved adoptions, honors for military canines

Gregory Bull/AP

A Democratic senator wants working military dogs to get more honors and homes.

The post-battlefield adoption and official recognition of courageous acts of military working dogs would be improved under a bill that Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., plans to introduce.

Appearing on Thursday at an event in Hartford with soldiers and National Guard officials, Blumenthal said: "Military working dogs routinely patrol ahead of the line -- put in harm's way to protect our troops.... These courageous comrades help detect and disarm roadside bombs and IEDs -- some of the deadliest threats to our troops.

"They are critical partners to our combat teams," Blumenthal said.

Even so, Blumenthal said, the Defense Department classifies the canines as "equipment," leaving the dogs' adopters or individual military units to bear the cost of transportation and care if they wish to bring them back home.

Blumenthal's bill would: establish a "retired military working dogs veterinary care fund," with private donations covering care costs to adopted and retired military dogs; standardize the adoption process and centralize efforts to place dogs without options when they retire out of Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The same donated travel benefits used by service members could be applied to transporting the dogs to San Antonio. And the bill would enable the Defense Department to honor courageous or meritorious dogs, or those killed in action.

"Retired military working dogs often continue to serve at home in offering companionship and care to war fighters," added Blumenthal. "For their service abroad, these dogs deserve their loyalty and dedication to be returned when they are home."

"This is just the right thing to do for both our soldier handlers and their hard working battle buddy," said Maj. Gen. Thaddeus Martin, adjutant general and commander of the Connecticut National Guard, who joined Blumenthal in making the announcement.

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