Letter to dvm360: Article on care for retired military dogs needs clarification

Article

Quotes misconstrue how military handles the care of military working dogs.

I wanted to make a couple of comments and clarifications regarding the article “Partnership offers returning military dogs free veterinary care” in the January issue. I think it is possible for your readers to get the wrong impression of how the military deals with working dogs from the quotes that were provided.

First, I would like to applaud Red Bank Veterinary Hospital for agreeing to provide services to retired working dogs.

However, the article could be misinterpreted due to a quote from Anthony DeCarlo, VMD, the founder of Red Bank, pertaining to the American Humane Association and U.S. War Dogs Association bringing these dogs home. Military working dogs are assigned to bases and handlers, and when they are deployed overseas, they are never left behind. When their tour of duty is complete, or if they are injured or unable to work, they are transported back to their duty station by the military. Neither American Humane nor any other private organization is involved in this transportation process. So if DeCarlo's statement about bringing dogs home meant returning from a deployment, it was incorrect.

The quote from Ron Aniello, the president of the U.S. War Dogs Association, about the dogs being essential but not having guaranteed medical care also needs clarification. Military working dogs receive semiannual examinations, vaccinations, preventive care, antiparasitic products and frequent dental cleanings. Because these dogs are essential, they are typically examined prior to a deployment, when arriving in country, prior to leaving the deployment and again when they return to their home station. This is in addition to their semiannual examinations, when vaccinations, bloodwork, serum banking and other procedures are performed.

If Mr. Aiello meant that active working dogs do not get medical care, he is incorrect; if he meant retired working dogs do not receive medical care, then his statement is correct. There is a very detailed disposition process that is followed to determine if a working dog can be adopted at the end of its working life. This process involves behavioral assessments to ensure the safety of the public and the welfare of the dog. Matching to an acceptable family and environment is also considered. Preference is given to former working dog handlers since they are familiar with the temperament and training involved with these canines. Persons interested in adopting a retiring working dog have to agree to provide any needed medical care for these animals, much like those adopting a dog from a shelter; the new owner is responsible for the dog's care from that point forward.

Finally, I was a little disappointed that the article was run without any input from subject matter experts on military working dogs. An Army Veterinary Corps officer who works with these animals would have been an excellent additional source of information and could have prevented any confusion over the quotes in the article regarding retiring military working dogs. I hope that you will consider this in the future.

CPT Rick Upshaw, U.S. Army Reserve

Veterinary Team 1 OIC

445th Med Det (Vet Services)

Independence, Missouri

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