Heroic "Equipment"?

Coot, an improvised explosive device detection dog, with a U.S. Marine on patrol in Afghanistan. Coot and other military working dogs routinely risk their lives in war zones - DVIDSThis past year has brought heightened attention to a very special class of veteran—the Military Working Dog (MWD)—especially when it was reported that an MWD was part of the team that rousted out Osama Bin Laden! MWDs put their lives on the line to protect our soldiers in combat zones and protect us at home through service within many federal agencies. However, while regarded as "more than equipment" and "true heroes" for their contributions, they are not usually treated as such upon retirement.

While MWDs are now eligible for adoption, there is no provision for returning those serving outside the United States to a home base. Thus, any potential U.S. adopter must pay the steep costs of transporting the dog stateside. Moreover, adopting families may face hundreds or thousands of dollars in veterinary care for problems related to the dogs' time in the military.

To rectify this injustice, the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act—H.R. 4103, introduced by Rep. Walter Jones, Jr. (R-NC), and S. 2134, introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)—specifies that MWDs are not to be considered as mere "equipment." The bill reclassifies them as canine members of the armed forces, allows for their transport back to the United States, and authorizes the Secretary of Defense to contract (without expense to the federal government) for a system of veterinary care for adopted MWDs.