pet cemeteries; the increase in post-divorce pet-custody cases -- our cultural attitude towards our animals is evolving. The law tends to see pets as things or property; we've come to understand them more as people and family members, and want our institutions to do the same, whether it's the courts or the army.
Continuing that trend is a bill introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative Walter B. Jones (R-NC) earlier this week. The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act hopes to make it easier for retired military working dogs (MWDs) to be adopted after their service, as well as improving their veterinary care. And neither of the measures is supposed to cost taxpayers any extra.
Based on various news stories we've seen in the last few months -- humans petitioning to be buried alongside their animal companions in
Blumenthal noted the honorable service of MWDs in all branches of the U.S. armed forces, as well as the CIA and TSA, in work such as "detecting intruders, drugs, and improvised explosive devices." These dogs often continue their service after they retire from active duty, "offering companionship and care to our veterans." Jones added that it's time for the nation to "recognize the importance and contributions of Military Working Dogs" -- by "elevating their status to Canine Members of the Armed Forces." Nobody disputes the importance and effectiveness of canine combat dogs at ferreting out IEDs and working in other key protective roles; the difference is in the classification. At the moment, the Department of Defense views these hardworking canines as "equipment." As such, when a dog is finished his overseas service, the cost of getting him back home falls to whoever's adopted him, or to his military unit. And while this "equipment" has won awards in the past, the dogs don't currently receive the formal awards approved by the DoD; this bill could change all that, making MWDs and other extraordinary service animals eligible for official government recognition -- and protection.
The bill hopes to:
- Improve the post-service adoption process, including standardizing adoption practices and transfer practices and guaranteeing a home for retired MWDs at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. Donated travel benefits extended to human service members would apply the animals.
- Establish a veterinary-care system for retired MWDs, contracted via a private non-profit (no federal or taxpayer funds would be used). In other words, if you adopt a retired MWD, the vet bills are covered.
- Recognize the service of these dogs, both honoring "courageous or meritorious" dogs and remembering those killed in action.
To call your representatives about the bill, use the contacts lists for the Senate and the House. We'll keep you updated as the legislation progresses.
Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.
Elsewhere on Shine Pets:
Why pet rescuers ask such nosy questions
Hank the cat's run for Senate
Labs, Rottweilers among top most popular breeds