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War Dogs, Then and Now

War Dogs – - the name says it all. We have utilized these courageous and loyal animals to help save human casualties for centuries. These dogs are often referred to as Guardian Angels because they are assigned to protect and guide a particular person, but all together these dogs have saved thousands of soldiers’ lives throughout history.

The roles and jobs of these brave dogs have changed from war to war. The American Staffordshire terrier was used during the Civil War. These terriers served as sentries, they protected camps and carried messages between the troops. During World War I, dogs were still used to send messages. In addition, larger breeds such as the Mastiff, German shepherd and Rottweilers were used to pull small carts and carry the wounded off to medical aid stations.

World War II proved to be a pivotal point for war dogs; they were trained to attack enemy soldiers, sniff out booby traps and find hidden enemies such as snipers. The dogs were trained to give their lives in the war effort with anti-tank warfare training as well as being used for medical research. They were sent out like suicide bombers, trained to walk under enemy tanks with explosives strapped to their back. The goal here was to take out or disable enemy tanks; however, war dogs paid the ultimate price. The use of dogs for medical research in the war effort came under huge scrutiny and the adaptation of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act was a result of this practice.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. deployed over 4,000 dogs and 10,000 handlers along with veterinarians and vet techs to keep the dogs healthy. Different breeds of dogs were used based on the job requirement. German shepherds were used as scouts, sentries and in mine and tunnel investigations. Labrador retrievers were used as trackers. Dobermans and Rottweilers were used as water patrol dogs, being placed on slow moving ships or boats while detecting enemy underwater divers. Sadly, the majority of the Vietnam War dogs were never brought back to the U.S. They were euthanized or just left behind because the military classified war dogs as equipment during this era.

War dogs are still used today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them perform the same roles as the dogs mentioned above. However, war dogs are now highly cherished and not just thought of as mere disposable equipment. They are truly regarded as Guardian Angels and soldiers in their own right. Laws and reforms are in place to ensure these war dogs are well taken care of while working and in their retirement years.

The American Kennel Club Community Events Team, which is comprised of AKC employees in the Raleigh Operations Center, was moved by the work of these brave handlers and dogs and organized a company-wide charity drive called “Project 7-4″ (since it was based around the Fourth of July) to send much-needed items directly to these military teams. The United States War Dog Association provided the names of dog teams currently deployed and a list of requested supplies. Employees sponsored boxes and filled them with items for both the military handlers and dogs, along with personal notes of thanks, photos of them with their dogs, and in some cases drawings from their children. In total, AKC staff collected 150 care packages for these brave handlers and their dogs and raised all the money necessary to ship them directly to the soldiers’ current stations overseas. In North Carolina, the participation among staff was enormous — with an average of one box collected for every two employees.

The AKC was pleased to work with the U.S. War Dogs Association to support these brave men, women and dogs performing crucial roles for the U.S. military throughout the world.

Credits: AKC in Session Congressional Newsletter

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