As 2015 drew to a close, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act to appropriate funds for military spending in 2016. Although it is a standard and often uneventful peace of legislation, the act came with a special Christmas gift for military service animals. Within the hundreds of pages that made up the bill, there was a provision that will allow military service dogs to return home to the United States for retirement. Previously, military service animals were ineligible for transport back to the U.S. and were often placed in local shelters.
This marks a huge victory for both animal rights groups and veterans care groups who have long been fighting to give military animals a proper and happy retirement. Their service to military operations and personnel is often overlooked despite their incredible life saving contributions. In fact, according to the American Humane Association, each military service dog saves the lives of between 150-200 service men by detecting IEDs and hidden weapons caches.
The law also goes beyond simply bringing these heroic dogs home, it gives the military handlers the first choice in adoptions of these dogs. This makes a huge difference to veterans who have returned home and are struggling to adjust to civilian life. Having a K9 companion who has experienced many of the same traumatic experiences can help veterans combat conditions like PTSD. This offers many retired military dogs the ability retire in comfort while continuing to serve the struggling veterans they love.
“The NDAA and its passage will ensure that our four-legged veterans will finally have their chance to come home and live a comfortable quiet life, hopefully with a handler they deployed with or a fellow veteran.” – Lance Corporal Jeff DeYoung, USMC (Ret.) who was reunited with his military dog Cena (From the American Humane Newsroom)
Credit goes to Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat from Missouri, and Congressman Frank LoBiondo, Republican from New Jersey, who introduced the provision.