It’s very hard to find someone who hasn’t heard about Cairo, the military K-9 who was part of the Navy SEALs team that took down Osama bin Laden.
But many people may not realize what happens to our canine heroes after their service is complete.
“They’re kind of just left out and forgotten once the military is done with them,” Lisa Phillips, a former army veterinarian technician, told ksat.com. “The military offers them nothing. In fact, they are considered excess equipment.”
A lucky few are adopted out to their handlers’ families, but most are left to fend for themselves.
According to ksat.com, Phillips, who has two military dogs of her own, is working with Rep. Walter Jones, a congressman from North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, to pass a bill that will re-classify military dogs as “canine veterans.”
Under the proposed bill, the military K-9s would be eligible for free medical care and transportation to their adopted families.
Phillips added, “My non-profit will come in and pay for the transportation to their adopted family and for the medical care.”
Sadly, because military dogs are not considered veterans, they aren’t buried with their handlers if they are killed in action.
ABC News states, “Arlington’s eligibility rules prohibit burial of animals. In 2002, when a veterans group made up of one-time war dog-handlers tried to donate a tree honoring K9s, Arlington declined to accept, viewing it perhaps as a paw-in-the-door to canine interment. When the same group tried to donate a memorial to a military cemetery in Riverside, Calif., the Department of Veterans Affairs objected, according to a V.A. spokesperson.”
According to ABC News, dogs are not even officially eligible to receive medals or other military decorations. “Despite what you may have read about dogs in Afghanistan having been given Purple Hearts or a Silver Star, any such awards are at best informal, conferred by the men the dogs served with—not by the Pentagon or by the Department of the Army.”
In April, the only private memorial to war dogs west of the Mississippi was dedicated in Encinitas, Calif., near San Diego.
According to ABC News, “John Burnam of the U.S. War Dog Association, along with Ron Aiello, are working to establish a Military Working Dog Teams National Monument at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia, where the U.S. Army is building a national museum. The Department of Defense has given its okay for the erection of a statue.”
For more information, visit the Help Get Military Working Dogs Medical Benefits page on Facebook.
PHOTO: The U.S. Army