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Retired military dogs find new purpose in US meth wars

July 2, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Five retired military dogs that spent years working in war zones are putting their noses to new uses by helping police in the U.S. combat methamphetamine and other drugs.

The dogs are being deployed to departments in Indiana, Texas, Tennessee, Nebraska and Georgia as part of a venture that organizers say gives police a resource they couldn’t otherwise afford and provides the dogs a new mission.

The U.S. military has used dogs since the Revolutionary War, enlisting them to guard facilities, detect drugs and explosives, and search for people or items. Historically, many were euthanized or left behind once their deployments ended.

That has changed, in large part due to a 2000 law signed by President Bill Clinton that requires the Department of Defense to report annually the number of military working dogs that are adopted, transferred to law enforcement or euthanized.

Many of the retiring dogs return to training facilities where they’re assessed for health and behavioral issues and then either placed for adoption or repurposed as domestic working dogs for police agencies and security companies.

Indiana led the nation for meth incidents in 2014 with 1,470, according to Drug Enforcement Administration statistics.

“No other drug is more labor intensive for law enforcement than battling meth,” said Paul Hemings, U.S. general manager of Westport Pharmaceuticals in St. Louis, which offers grants to acquire the dogs and train them to work with their new handlers. “You’re not just going in and arresting the criminals. You have these labs out there that blow up, are environmental hazards, have a huge cleanup left behind.”

The dogs placed through the grant include Axel, a 5-year-old German shepherd that spent three years in Afghanistan as a search and narcotics dog.

Axel’s handler, Officer Matthew Hickey, said Axel recently found marijuana and cocaine that resulted in three arrests during an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department drug investigation.


Associated Press videojournalist Jill Craig in Houston contributed to this story.

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