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Department of Veterans' Affairs: Please recognise military dogs as members of Defence

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Department of Veterans' Affairs:  Please recognise military working-dogs as members of the Defence Force and cover their ongoing retirement costs.

On June 9 2017, Minister for Defence Personnel, Dan Tehan, announced the release of the Canine Operational Service Medal to recognize the important contribution of military working-dogs to Australia’s Defence Force.

I’ve worked on veterans' issues for the last six years, advocating for ex and serving members of the ADF.  A lot of this time was as a volunteer.

It wasn’t until I visited a military working-dog cell on base recently that I began to ask questions about what happens to the dogs upon their retirement.

The dogs get rehomed, sometimes with their former handler, but the costs of caring for them - particularly from a healthcare and veterinary perspective - can be large. The problem is compounded if the veteran too has retired medically and has limited income to  finance these costs.

For those who aren’t aware of what military working-dogs do, I’ll briefly describe their roles.

First, there are different types of military working-dogs:

1) Dogs that don't make the grade to work in defence are rehomed with great charities run by veterans who have them retrained as assistance dogs for people with PTSD or mental health issues.
2) There are military police dogs. For all things law and order (paw and order).
3) There are engineer dogs for detection (particularly explosives and narcotics).
4) And finally the ‘Operator dogs’, these are the bad “good boys”. Training all day every day, running kilometers on end, working the frontline and in some cases saving a lot of lives.

I am aware of an ex Special Forces soldier who has rehomed his 'MWD'  himself and fully funded the costs of his dog for all the veterinary surgery following injuries the dog sustained during it's service career and I’m sure there are many more dogs like this to come.

Regardless of their role, these dogs are worked very hard. That upon retirement the likelihood of  poor health outcomes later such as  joint replacements is high and undoubtedly expensive and this cost comes back to its new master, someone who has also dedicated themselves to this country with their service.

These dogs don’t just protect, they support their human handlers and their peers emotionally and psychologically. I appreciate the release of the Canine Operational Service Medal but as a dog owner and a passionate veterans advocate, I believe the costs involved with managing these dogs in their retirement is a missing component in an already convoluted system.

As a veteran case manager I have seen ways in which the Department of Veterans' Affairs can save money on their budget in order to fund the ongoing maintenance costs of these dogs in their retirement to supply food and healthcare. I believe that awareness about what these dogs do for the country needs to be spread in order for this change to happen, so please sign and share this petition and give your dog a pat.  

To add, I appreciate that there are plenty of human service members who have their own struggles with DVA. I would certainly suggest anyone who has had a negative experience of their own seek advice from a qualified and reputable case manager or advocate at an ex service organization to review their circumstances.

And for those dogs that haven’t made it home they can be remembered by


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