What happens when an MWD retires?
Military Working Dogs serve long, useful careers, working for the Department of Defense for at least 10-12 years. Before 2000, when it came time to retire, most of the dogs were euthanized. Fortunately with “Robby’s Law” that was passed on November 6, 2000, retired military dogs can be adopted out. Now hundreds of dogs are adopted out of Lackland Air Force base in Texas each year. Some are retired because of age or health reasons, and others because they couldn’t obtain or maintain their certifications. The dogs must maintain a 95% rate of accuracy in order to be used in service.
Handlers Adopt First
Adoption dibs go first to the most recent handler. Such a strong bond is created between the dog and handler, that most handlers try to adopt their dog when its active duty is completed. “Hopefully she gets out at the same time I do so I can adopt her [WMD Vicky],” said Cpl. Joey Nunez. “But I’m definitely going to miss her if I don’t get to adopt her when she retires.”
Law Enforcement Next
Adoption out to law enforcement gets considered next. Very few MWDs are adopted out to law enforcement agencies, since they’re usually in the 9 to 11 year old range by the time they retire.
Finally, Civilian Adoption
After handlers and law enforcement have turned down the opportunity to adopt, the option then goes to civilians. The dogs usually come home with health and behavioral issues including PTSD due to the nature of their training and work. Civilian applicants are carefully screened to make certain the dog is placed in the right kind of home.
“People have a fear that they’re attack dogs,” Sgt. 1st Class Richard Cooke, first sergeant for U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Headquarters said. “But that’s not the case. So many dogs could go to great homes, but people are unaware that the adoption program exists or that many are not attack trained. They’re really carefully assessed and very safe to adopt.”
Helping Handlers bring their buddies home.
MWD Adoption is free. Because the dogs are currently classified as equipment, the DOD is not obligated to pay for transportation upon retirement. If a dog is retired overseas, it’s considered excess equipment and not entitled to any transport back which can be costly – up to $2000.
There are a couple of worthy organizations that help facilitate WMD adoptions for military veterans. They continue to help handlers get their military dogs home. Sometimes they will pay for partial or entire transportation fees to reunite a soldier with their buddy.
The ultimate Save-A-Vet mission — to rescue MWD’s, K-9’s, and other service animals who cannot be placed anywhere else because of their special needs, and to provide housing and relief for disabled veterans who help take care of them.
Rescue program – building first secure permanent facility to house unadoptable MWDs along with providing housing and relief to disabled Vets who will care for them.
Mission K9 Rescue
Mission K9 Rescue provides monetary, transportation, adoption, and professional assistance for these retired hero dogs.
Thinking about adopting a Military Working Dog?
These noble, obedient, faithful servants deserve a lot of respect and a loving, safe home to retire to. A retirement of snoozing, snacking, playing and belly rubs!
If you are interested in adoption or have any questions, send emails to MWD.Adoptions@us.af.mil. The adoption screening process includes a medical exam and an assessment of the dog’s temperament. Potential owners are also screened by the military working dog unit commander.
Official MWD DOD Website
Official Military Working Dog Adoption Website
Some real life adoption stories of soldiers and their K9 companions.
Battle Buddies For Life
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing working dog prepares for retirement after 6 years of service.
From Un-trainable to Inseparable: K9 finds new pack through adoption.
No one gets left behind, especially my dog!
“While there is a proper, legal classification for a working dog, we know they are living things, and we have great respect and admiration for them,” said Lackland Air Force Base spokesman Gerry Proctor. “A handler would never speak of their dog as a piece of equipment. The dog is their partner. You can walk away from a damaged tank, but not your dog. Never.”
“He’s pretty much my best friend. Afghanistan was an entire year of being together every single moment,” he said. “He saved my life on more than one occasion. He’s more like my son than anything else … so it was only right to make sure he came home with me and had a good place to live for the rest of his [life].” U.S. Army Sgt. John Nolan, former senior specialized-search dog handler previously assigned to the 3rd Military Police Detachment at Fort Eustis, about Honza , 7-year-old yellow lab SSD.
“These dogs are our partners. We travel with them, sleep with them and live with them. They are our best friends. Every dog handler will agree that there is nothing we won’t do to protect our dogs.” Navy Pett Officer 1st Class Michael Thomas, Assistant Kennel Master for the 25th Military Police Company, 25th Infantry Division
“It is impossible not to form a bond with your dog, a kind of bond that you cannot understand unless you have experienced it yourself.” Cpl. Johanna Robbins, a military working dog handler with 1st Law Enforcement Battalion.