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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.