Are Military Working Dogs Being Euthanized?


Last week, an online petition calling for an end to the process of euthanizing retired Military Working Dogs was being circulated. I was outraged. I had no idea that this practice was taking place, so I looked into the matter. All roads led back to the process of adopting retired Military Working Dogs (MWDs), a process some say needs to be streamlined for the benefit of OCONUS MWDs.

In November, 2000 Congress passed Robby’s Law (HR 5314), a law allowing the adoption of suitable, retired MWDs. Now there is a push to amend HR 5314 to make the adoption process easier. Currently, retired and adopted MWDs serving OCONUS are classified as “excess equipment,” a classification which prevents the DoD from paying for transport back to a CONUS destination. The DoD only pays to transport that which is classified as “manpower” or “equipment.” This means that an adoptive family must pay the cost to transport an OCONUS MWD back to the states.

But those who retire on U.S. military bases normally are not transported back to the States unless their adopter wants to pay for it.

“Once that dog is adopted, it becomes a pet, and therefore loses its [military working dog] status,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog told the Air Force News Service in 2009, when she was the Air Force’s director of security forces. “So it would be fraud, waste and abuse for the DoD to transport that pet.”

Kandoll said she would be happy if DoD would go halfway and at least transport the dogs stateside.

Advocates for the amendment are hoping for three changes; a new classification for retired MWDs, DoD to absorb the cost to transport MWDs stateside and a Commendation and Medal for Meritorious MWD Service for Active Duty MWDs.

Rather than creating a new classification, it seems the issue would be less complicated if the DoD simply refused to “retire” a MWD until it was stateside so that MWDs wouldn’t be forced into the “excess equipment” category prematurely and would be eligible for military transport to a CONUS destination. I’m unsure why this isn’t a viable solution.

But that aside, let’s look at the euthanasia claim. Upon closer inspection, the causes petition is a bit dated and lacking in basic facts. Someone must have stumbled across the Causes petition and revived it. I’ve received several emails over the past few days about this issue. It’s easy to see how some would jump to the conclusion that this practice is widespread and current (as I did). But everything I’ve read tends to debunk this.

There have been cases of MWDs being euthanized, or at least coming close to it. You may recall the recent story of Rocky, a disabled MWD who narrowly escaped euthanasia. The public outcry and wide dissemination of his story saved his life. According to the experts at Pets for Patriots who run the Pet Corner, these cases are rare. Most MWDs are adopted by handlers, military families or civilians. Clearly there are MWDs who, like pets in general, have health  issues that could render them unattractive to potential adoptive families. However, Rocky’s story proves that when the public is made aware of such cases, someone usually steps up.

How often do we lose a MWD who wasn’t as fortunate as Rocky and whose story didn’t get out and tear at our heartstrings? I don’t know. What I’d really like to see is a process whereby these stories, however infrequent, are brought to the public’s attention. There are a million softies like myself who would be more than willing to give a dog, even a special needs dog, a loving home for the remainder of his life.

Lackland Air Force Base is home to the DoD Military Working Dog School. Retired Military Working Dogs are available for adoption and if you live within two hours of Lackland, the DoD is looking for families to foster their MWD puppies. If you’re interested in learning more, visit the official Military Working Dog site.

Research suggests that in past conflicts retired MWDs were left behind to fend for themselves in places like Vietnam, and others were indeed euthanized because there was no procedure in place for adoption. Robby’s Law has corrected that injustice. These dogs have served their nation valiantly and have saved countless lives. They deserve every chance possible to live out their golden years in peace and happiness. By all accounts, MWDs suitable for adoption are getting that chance thanks to the long list of people willing and waiting to adopt them.

About the Author


Andi is married to an active-duty soldier and is the founder and former editor of SpouseBUZZ.

She is the founder of the Annual MilBlog Conference. The MilBlog Conference is the premiere event of the year for military bloggers. President George W. Bush, U.S. Representative Adam Smith, GEN David Petraeus, LTG Mike Oates, LTG William Caldwell, RADM Mark Fox, MG Kevin Bergner, MG David Hogg and The Honorable Pete Geren have addressed previous conferences.

While living in Washington, DC, Andi was the Ambassador to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Sew Much Comfort, a non-profit organization which makes and delivers, free of charge, special adaptive clothing for wounded service members. Andi has worked with several non-profits to help our wounded heroes and their families. She finds that work to be the most rewarding and meaningful of all.

Andi strives to find humor in the good, bad and ugly of life and is a firm believer that laughter has the ability to cure most ills.

  • Robert

    We retired from the military

    Let us adopt this dogs that have served our contry in war!!!!!!

    I am sure we love to give them a good home.

    Rhey deserve a goot treatment and rest for the rest of their lives.


  • In light of the previous article posted with respect to budget cuts (, I think it’s ludicrous to ask the DOD to pay for this.

    Once a dog – any dog – is adopted, it becomes the responsibility of the pet owner, not the military. I really don’t understand the confusion. If you can’t afford to transport the dog, don’t adopt it. This is a particular hot button for me because I currently live OCONUS. There are a RIDICULOUS number of families trying to rehome their dogs because they can’t pay to transport them to their next duty station. I just adopted one of those dogs this past weekend!

    I fully respect the WMDs. My husband works for the VETCOM, and we are animal lovers… but not to the point where I place the value of a dog above the need of service members to have more of a pay raise.

    I completely agree that they need to be adopted out rather than euthanized, but there are perfectly wonderful local foreign national families who could love and appreciate those dogs if they can’t find American families on the OCONUS bases who want to adopt them and pay for their transport.

    • jumper

      Simply put, the military needs to stop treating these soldiers as disposable. The military took them there, used them until they had nothing left to give, and then claims the expense of bringing them back to the states is too excessive and puts them down. THAT’S ridiculous. The animals should be brought back and then the adopter has the responsibility of arranging transport for the animal from that location. We’re not exactly talking about an exorbitant amount of money… I don’ t think we’ll be risking pay raises and new jets to bring a few dogs back to their home as payment for the service they’ve provided.

      • Barbara

        Well said! thank you for your comments!

    • Liam

      I’d love to adopt a MWD, I also as a vet live in Europe, I am in Norway. also looking at the possibility of learning how to be a trainer for pets. I located a School here in Norway that is possibly the best in Europe. send me an email at

      Let’s talk and see where things can go

    • Cody

      A pay raise over a life? are you kidding? old post but I wonder I’f the female knows the value of life. When it’s all done did you make a difference? , shepherd, god’s shepherd?

  • MWD BEYCO H100 Ret.

    This is not about dependents family pets educate yourself. These are Military Working Dogs. Soldiers Warriors just like the Soldier they serve next to. Specialized K-9’s Highly trained in their specialty. And guess what THEY DON’T GET PAID A DIME for their service. I support HR 5341 and the reclassification Amendment that is being sent to Rep Walter Jones NC for passage by the House. These Dogs Served our Nation with Honor died By & Beside their Handler’s and fellow Soldiers. Their are many MWD’s who also suffer from physical & physiological wounds related to their Military Service. Money should not be an obstacle when it comes to a Military Working Dog. There are thousands of soldiers who walk this earth today because of these DOGS ask one of them if their WORTH IT.

    • Lucy

      I agree with every word you said!! A police dog wouldn’t be treated like this why should a military working dog be treated any differently? They save lives. Show them the love and respect they deserve be sending them HOME to a loving family. If government says this is to expensive I’m sure it couldn’t cost to much to put their crate in the corner of the plane bringing soldiers home. Cut spending somewhere else I’m sure there are many places FAR LESS important then this. MAKES ME SICK everyday to hear how animals are just tossed aside and disgarded. :(:(

  • Danny

    I’m not understanding why these MWD’s are losing their military status even if they’re still in a war zone. They were a MWD when they went over there, they should be a MWD until they get home. If we transported them to a combat theatre, we need to transport them home, simple as that. Technically these dogs are classified as a combatant. Would we transport a soldier to a combat zone, revoke their status, and then leave them there? Of course not. Show the same respect that you would show to a fellow soldier, bring them home, and then adopt them out.

    • Don Ellwood

      I can not understand that because the War dog is an amnal, it still served honorably like a human soldier & deservs the same consideration in being transported backto he U.S. where it can e aopted by those who appreciated their service

    • JeffA

      There are no MWDs that are “losing their military status” anywhere near the war zone. This is confused mixup of what the article says. If a dog in a warzone cannot work anymore, it’s returned to its home station, where they then decide its disposition.

  • SemperSteen

    So the military can invest thousands into the training and care of those dogs while they’re sniffing out IEDs in a warzone, but paying for them to be transported to a loving home after their service is asking too much? Sorry, I’m not buying that. Those dogs risk their lives just like any other servicemember and some develop PTSD because of the trauma they experience serving our country, and they do not get a paycheck for this. I think a plane ticket to a loving home is the LEAST our country owes those animals.

    And let’s not forget that the money those dogs save us by preventing servicemembers and equipment from being destroyed by roadside bombs, more than covers the expense to transport them.

  • I have 3 dogs now but I’ll take another one anytime. I’m in Tampa near MacDill AFB and there are planes coming in and out all the time . Tell me when to come pick up the dog aand I’ll be there. I thought they were being bought back not abandened like before. Hell, Ii’ll set up a shelter or work with one to get them here.

    • Suzie Q

      You are my favorite person in the world right now!

  • Benson, S.

    yup, costs alot to put a dog into a kennel crate and place it into a corner of a plane that is already headed to CONUS anyway.

  • robertro2


  • Salisbury Marine

    …In WWII, many of the dogs had been donated by families. The surviving dogs were screened for health factors (such as heartworm) and any behavior issues. Most were returned to their families.

    …At the end of Vietnam the military just killed most of them… Simpler than bringing them home for quarantine and screening. Let’s not do that again…

  • John

    What would happen if a law were passed to prohibite these heroes from being used to save lifes and then left inhumanely to fend for themselves. This is an outrage to every man and women who ever served. We no the importance of these dogs. Our staff personnel for the most part are never in the trenches to see these unique animals in action. The services say they take care of there own. Well owe up to these poor herioes, who serve are troops with detication and devotion. They risk and give there lifes for our troops.

    • JeffA

      Where did you read this? Why don’t people research what’s actually going on before replying? What dogs are being left “inhumanely to fend for themselves”?!? This simply does not happen.

  • desertfox

    If there good enough to defend your country and service member; they should cover ,the cost to come home. If i had my acreage back in the country ;i would take one in a drop of a hat.
    Also the amount of saving from personnel and equipment save ; would justify the cost to bring our four leg pets home.
    Ask any dog handler life that has been save; how much his dog live mean to him.

  • Lou

    I was shocked a few years after I returned from Vietnam to find out the scout dogs were killed and never to return home.A scout dog saved my life .I was informed that the Goverment no longer kills the dogs I never did believed it .Its amazing how billions of dollars are paid out to cronnies of political leaders at our expense but they cannot put a pet carrier on a plane already destined to come to the US because of cost . When these dogs are retired they should be able to retire as vets. I will adopt a military dog .These dogs are heroes and how many of our sons and daughters have been saved by these heroes. Is there a group to save these dogs ?

  • J. Henderson

    This is so sad. Those that have no respect for what should be done correctly, should not be surprised when horrible things happen to them.

  • bzzoff

    I attended AZR811X0 Sentry Dog Handlers Course @ Lackland Sept.-November ’68. Your Government is a POS to do this against a MWD. I think Damsel is also an asshole.

    Most comments here are RIGHT ON. Put the Soldier in a crate, place it on a CONUS bound flight and GET’er Done! BURN IN HELL for putting any MWD’s down….without due cause. Even God recognizes animals…their Souls are better than many of whom they protected. That’s a Fact, Jack!

  • hitthedeck

    In the sixty’s I served as a sentry dog handler for a year and then was trained as a Vet-Tec serving in Korea for another year. In those days dogs were lifers and the training was very different than today. Sentry dogs were very dangerous and were trained to be aggressive with everyone except their handler. A scout dog was trained to work within a group of GI’s. The vocal cords were often cut to avoid a wounded dog from making noise that might give away a hidden position to the enemy. The military would allow sentry dogs to retire into civilian life because sentry dogs could not be retrained for safety and were put down when they were unable to perform their duties. Scout dogs were given breaks and were allowed to retire especially after awards for valor like the Silver Star. When I served in the military the only breed of dog used was German Shepherds. The Shepherd was called an all weather dog. His outer coat was hollow oil coated hairs that were water proof. His undercoat was soft and gave him protection in cold weather. Mail dogs were used because they were more aggressive. The history of military dogs is very interesting and has been used all the way back in history to the Pharos of Egypt.

  • wake99

    Typical military- don’t need it now get rid of it.
    And most military families should never have pets, they don’t take care of them; often abandon them and expect DOD to do it all. Most of them shouldn’t have kids either; they can’t take care of them properly either. Speaking from personal experience.
    Today’s welfare military, where military families think everything should be taken care of for them since Daddy or Mommy might go to war. Let’s look back- DOD did not hold anyone’s hand in WWII, Korea or Vietnam, with child care, Community Services, check book balancing, etc., etc. like they do today. And the families still whine. Fed up with it.

  • KnirpsLyn

    Yeah, cause what we really need is thousand dollar plane rides for dogs sponsored by the government. Let’s remove some military benefits in exchange.

    Imo, if you want a pet from overseas, you should pay for it’s transportation to the states like anyone else.

    • Suzie Q

      They’ve already EARNED their plane ride home! By saving the lives of our soldiers! If they weren’t a benefit for them to take over there, they wouldn’t be there in the first place!

  • G Shackelford

    Damsel and Knirpslyn sound like they learned from Gen “Heartless” Hertog. God bless those poor dogs who had no choice but did their best to serve their master.

  • nyou

    Awwww poor dogs. Thats a shame they should at least pay for some of the flight, I mean damn the dog should recieve some compensation for serving its country too, I would happily adopt one, I love animals <3

  • K9Kris3298

    Write to your Senators to support Senate Bill 2314 and to your Representatives to support House Bill 4103. Both are duplicate bills titled “Canine Members of the Armed Forces” and take away their “equipment” title, provide for transportation home, post retirement vet care (only a few years anyway) and allow service awards to MWDs. This will seal the gap left behind by Robby’s Law (2000). We owe it to the K9 Veterans and every soul saved by one of these dogs.

  • Alice

    I am not military, but live in Alaska, military country. Doesn’t matter. I would happily adopt a military dog, combat or not.

  • juris orcino

    I’m interested in adopting one of these dog war heroes.I’m willing to pay for ALL expenses,including airplane &/or land transportation.I live in California,USA where I also own 21 purebred champion blood line horses.I bought a military trained Rottweiler from Germany & she is still in excellent shape now at age 6.

    • Paula Vlamis

      Did you ever get a response to your query about adopting one of these dogs? I, too, live in California and have foster and owner many dogs. I would LOVE to either adopt or to pay for one of them to be reunited with their veteran handler.

  • Clarence

    This is the reason why I did not want to join the military comming out of high school because I knew they were full of shit. Give these dogs the respect that they deserve or stop using them and then you will see just how effective the troops really are without their dogs. Dogs can hear and smell a lot better than humans can.

  • Elizabeth Ann Sidhom

    Why aren’t these dogs still considered military working dogs once they are adopted by families? My brother was in the US ARMY and he is now home; Does that mean that he is now NOT a US solider? This country can sure feel like it’s on some kind of bullshit drug! Ridiculous! We put priorities in such materialistic things that we are quickly forgetting how to remain human and care for our fellow animals.