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Congress OKs Miltary-Dog Adoption

October 24, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Military dogs too old to work will be put up for adoption instead of being put to death under legislation headed to President Clinton.

The legislation, passed by the Senate on a voice vote Tuesday, allows law enforcement agencies and other qualified people to adopt the animals. Under the measure, the commander of a dog’s last unit would decide whether the animal is suitable for adoption after considering recommendations of the unit’s veterinarian.

The bill passed the House earlier and now goes to President Clinton.

Current Pentagon policy denies adoption as an option for military dogs even though old civilian police dogs often find homes with their handlers.

The Defense Department cages and eventually euthanizes military dogs that become too old or sick to work, according to Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., who introduced the bill.

The Defense Department’s Dog Center said military dogs are euthanized primarily for medical reasons. Others die from natural causes.

Units often send retiring dogs to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where the animals are used in training dog handlers. Retired dogs can be released to civilian law enforcement agencies but not to members of the public to avoid claims of government liability if the dog injures someone.

Bartlett’s bill would require anybody who receives a working military dog to agree not to hold the government responsible for damage, injury or other losses after transfer of ownership.

Working dogs have assisted American fighting forces in almost every conflict involving the United States. They have been trained and used to alert troops to ambushes; find booby traps, land mines and other hidden explosives; act as decoys to draw enemy fire; and search for downed airmen.

More than 30,000 military dogs have served since World War II. The military currently has about 1,800 dogs in service.

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The bill number is H.R. 5314.

On the Net: For bill text: http://thomas.loc.gov

Military Working Dog School, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas: http://dodmwd.lackland.af.mil/

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