THE AMAZING HISTORY OF MILITARY SERVICE DOGS

Service dogs: A man’s best friend. These specially trained dogs have been working alongside dedicated women and men who’ve served our country and involved in the United States military since the Revolutionary War. At that time, those dogs were used as pack animals, but by World War I, they were also used to help kill rats in war zones.

By World War II, the help of service dogs increased significantly to where they began to support different military operations and in the US. Over 10,000 specially trained dogs were deployed. These dogs held some very important positions such as messengers, scouts, sentries, and mine and explosive detectors. Today, service dogs are present in all of the US military branches and Police Departments, serving in all areas of the country when needed and on foreign grounds far away from home. Currently, there are thousands of service dogs in the US: Dutch and German shepherds, rottweilers, doberman pinschers, labradors, pitbulls, beagles, as well as Belgian Malinois. These dogs have been used as service dogs because of their protective nature, obedience, loyalty, intelligence, and dedication. Alongside these traits, these amazing animals are also athletes, capable of enduring extremely harsh terrains and temperatures, anywhere in the entire world.

Thousands of service dogs have been brutally killed in service. If these dogs were not killed during their active time in the military, sadly, most of them were required to be euthanized after service. This was either because of the aggressive nature of these dogs; they carried harmful diseases, or because they were weak, had missing body parts, and/or were living in agony.

In 2000, in an effort to give retired service dogs a safe, and loving home, former President Bill Clinton signed a law that stated both retired military soldiers and civilians were allowed to adopt dogs that served in the military. This new law created a dramatic change in the attitude towards service dogs. Since then, many organizations have been created to assist and migrate the dogs back into family homes. Examples of such organizaciones are the Military Working Dog Team Support Association (MWDTSA) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Today, these dogs’ roles are also often referred to as police dogs, Military Working Dog (MWD - in the US military), or K-9. As of 2011, 600 US Military dogs were actively participating in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As partners in everyday police work, dogs have proven versatile and loyal officers. They are trained to respond viciously if their handler is attacked, or not to react at all unless they are commanded to do so by their handler. Many police dogs are also trained in drug and explosives detection. Military working dogs continue to serve as sentries, trackers, search and rescue, scouts, and mascots. Retired working dogs are often adopted as pets or used as therapy dogs.

The official K9 Corps was created on March 13, 1942. Thousands of dogs have served with honor, dignity and valor throughout our country’s history. To this day, dogs continue to serve on our borders and abroad every day on both land and sea.

It is important to recognize their service and contributions. They stand in the line of fire, they find the missing, protect our borders, and help keep our country safe. In honor of K9 Veteran’s Day, PPITS salutes all of the dogs that have courageously sacrificed their lives while serving our county and those who continue to do so. 

- Jonah Brand