Some Military Dogs May Get Quicker Adoption

Vanda, a military working dog trainee assigned to the 341st Training Squadron, prepares to crawl through a tunnel during a obedience training course at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Nov. 17, 2016. Senior Airman Keith James/Air Force
Vanda, a military working dog trainee assigned to the 341st Training Squadron, prepares to crawl through a tunnel during a obedience training course at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Nov. 17, 2016. Senior Airman Keith James/Air Force

Dogs contracted to the Defense Department may get quicker adoptions under a bill expected to pass Congress this week.

Once their work for the Defense Department is complete, the contracted canines would be transferred to the Air Force's 341st Training Squadron, an extension of the 37th Training Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, as part of an effort to speed up the adoption process, according to the legislative language.

Thus, the dogs will have a lower chance of being recycled into other federal agencies, such as the Homeland Security Department.

The provision was included in the 2017 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and spending goals for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. The House of Representatives approved the bill last week and the Senate is expected to do the same this week before sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The Air Force squadron is the lead agent in training dogs to work alongside service members and has a robust adoption program, allowing for military dog handlers or even civilians to take them home, according to Robert Rubio, a spokesman for the 37th Training Wing.

At the beginning of the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there weren't enough military dogs to meet the needs of the Army and Marine Corps, Rubio said. As a result, a Pentagon contract was put in place to take in more dogs for overseas missions, he said.

"What the [measure] is talking about is taking those contract dogs and then bringing them to the 341st to be adopted out," he said in a telephone interview with Military.com.

The only reason the dogs wouldn't be available for adoption once they come to the unit is for medical reasons, Rubio explained. Otherwise, "they usually retire within eight, nine, 10 years of life, so they're still pretty young and healthy," he said.

The language calls for a slight tweak to 10 U.S. Code § 2583: "The dog cannot be used by another department or agency of the Federal Government due to age, injury, or performance," according to a summary document released this week.

Rubio said the service has agreements with several law enforcement agencies that take in dogs that don't meet the stringent military working dog standard, but make for good detection dogs or still can serve some kind of role -- a recycling that would end under the legislation.

"According to this language, they can't be then adopted out to a law enforcement agency once they're retired," Rubio said.

"They'll come here to live out the rest of their lives in some kind of normalcy," he added. "Primarily handlers get the first choice [to adopt], but if they can't take them for whatever reason, they can go to a family."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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