Petition Closed
Petitioning Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James

Too Cute To Be Equipment, Too Brave To Go Down Without A Fight!

Follow the bill on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/MilitaryWorkingDogReclassification

Currently Military Working Dogs (MWDs) are still referred to as equipment. When the military doesn’t need them any more they are considered excess equipment and the military no longer has responsibility for them. They are usually retired for medical reasons. Medical bills for our retired MWDs can be astronomically high.

During the 112th Congress, North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones (R) introduced the House version of The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act on 28 February 2012 and Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal (D) introduced the Senate version of The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act on 27 February 2012.

This bill had bi-partisan support, bicameral support and support north & south of the Mason/Dixon Line. The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act uses no tax-payer money. It does not take away from human Veterans' care.

Parts of the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act were amended into and passed in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.

Six United States Senators sent a letter to Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense urging him to take advantage of the statutory authority they gave him to transport Military Working Dogs to a suitable location for adoption. They encourage him to implement the statutory change allowing him to provide guidance to improve the quality and lower the costs of veterinary care in a manner that allows for nonprofit organizations to execute this provision. They suggest that he provide a letter of commendation to each MWD that identifies the MWD's meritorious service and provide additional recognition as appropriate. All as allowed thanks to the amendment to the NDAA. While not in the NDAA they encourage Secretary Panetta to reexamine the current classification of MWDs as equipment and reclassify them as canine members of the Armed Forces.

Michael B. Donley, Secretary of the Air Force replied to the Senators’ letter. Regarding transportation he indicates that many adopters pay transportation costs. He acknowledges the veterinary care portion. He indicated that he provides letters of commendation to retiring MWDs as warranted. He indicated that MWDs are not referred to or treated as equipment, but did not offer to change the Air Force Manual to reflect that.

On 3 October 2013 we received a copy of a Bullet Background Paper on Military Working Dogs Classified as Equipment. PURPOSE:  “Provide information on AF Classification of military working dogs (MWD) as equipment. SUMMARY:  “Wording contained in AFMAN 31-219 referring to MWDs as equipment is misleading compared to the level of respect military personnel have for their K-9 partners and care given to them. This verbiage is outdated and is being rewritten.  This new, updated publication will indicate the true level of appreciation and respect the USAF has for these valuable members of our USAF team.”

Our current goal is to remind the Air Force that we watching for the updated manual.

 

Letter to
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James
We write to you on behalf of our Military Working Dogs. We never really thought about what happened to them after their time was served. We weren’t uninformed because we didn’t care. We just assumed they were taken care of for the duration of their lives by our Government because MWDs risk their lives every day in war zones, just the same as our honorable men and women in the military.

During the 112th Congress Representative Walter Jones (R) of North Carolina and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D) of Connecticut brought out the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act, H.R.4103 and S.2134. This bill had bipartisan and bi-cameral support, as well as support north and south of the Mason Dixon Line. Parts of the bill were amended into the NDAA for FY 2013 and passed.

We would like to share with you the intent and contents of the original version of the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act.

The original bill reclassified MWDs from “equipment,” as indicated in the Air Force Manual, to canine members of the Armed Forces. “The Military Working Dog is a highly specialized piece of equipment that supplements and enhances the capabilities of security police personal.” (Air Force Manual)

The original bill allowed for the acceptance frequent flyer miles to facilitate the adoption of a military working dog.

The original bill established and maintained a system to provide for veterinary care of retired MWDs to be funded via a non-profit.

Lastly, in the original bill the Secretary of Defense would create appropriate recognition for MWDs who are KIA or perform an exceptionally meritorious or courageous act in service to the United States.

The majority of MWDs are retired for medical reasons. Their medical bills can run thousands of dollars per year. When humans first adopt retired MWDs they not only pay to transport their new family member home, but many times, they also have the expense of flying them self to where the MWD is being retired from, pay for a hotel room, car rental and then the flight back home. The original legislation was designed to help alleviate some of that financial burden from the adopting human by allowing for the acceptance of frequent flyer miles for MWDs. Currently funds are raised on line to help pay for final transportation for most of our heroes to get to their furever home.

Likewise, to help with the potentially astronomical medical bills, the original bill would allow for payment of medical bills via a non-profit. As with the transportation, funds are being raised on line to help pay medical bills for our retired heroes.

We respectfully request that you follow the requests in the letter signed by United States Senators Richard Blumenthal, John Kerry, Olympia Snow, Patty Murray, Bernard Sanders, and Kirsten Gillibrand dated 31 December 2012 that was addressed to former Secretary of Defense Panetta.

We ask that you take advantage of the statutory authority given to the Secretary of Defense by Congress and transport all retiring/retired MWDs to a suitable location for adoption. We thank former Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley for acknowledging that the Air Force will work with organizations that initiate and fund veterinary care programs for our MWDs. We thank former Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley for honoring the service of our heroes by providing a commendation letter that identifies the MWD's meritorious service and provide additional recognition as appropriate.

While not in the NDAA, we, like the six United States Senators mentioned above, also encourage you to reexamine the current classification of MWDs as equipment and more accurately reclassify them as canine members of the Armed Forces.

Michael B. Donley, Former Secretary of the Air Force replied to the Senators’ letter. Regarding transportation he indicates that many adopters pay transportation costs. He acknowledges the veterinary care portion. He indicated that he provides letters of commendation to retiring MWDs as warranted. He indicated that MWDs are not referred to or treated as equipment, but did not offer to change the Air Force Manual to reflect that.

We would like to clarify that many of the adopters pay the transportation because they are not given any other option but to pay. They then turn to the general public for help fundraising.

On 3 October 2013 a copy of a Bullet Background Paper on Military Working Dogs Classified as Equipment was shared with those who created the “Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act.” PURPOSE: “Provide information on AF Classification of military working dogs (MWD) as equipment. SUMMARY: “Wording contained in AFMAN 31-219 referring to MWDs as equipment is misleading compared to the level of respect military personnel have for their K-9 partners and care given to them. This verbiage is outdated and is being rewritten. This new, updated publication will indicate the true level of appreciation and respect the USAF has for these valuable members of our USAF team.”

Our current goal is to remind the Air Force that we are joyfully awaiting the promised updated manual.

MWD Thanks on behalf of Retired MWD Gizmo A085, deceased; Retired MWD Bianca W229, deceased; and Retired MWD Rambo N577.

They are: Too Cute to be Equipment - Too Brave to go Down Without a Fight!