Animal Law Review


Sarah D. Cruse

First Page



This Article explores and evaluates the use of canines by the United States (U.S.) Armed Forces as military working dogs, and examines the reasons why the current administrative classification of these dogs is inappropriate. The author examines the historical use of, and increasing reliance on, mili­tary working dogs by the U.S. Armed Forces from World War II to present day. This historical exploration traces the development of the federal stat­utes and military regulations that govern the Military Working Dog Pro­gram. Federal law currently categorizes military working dogs as 'equipment,' which grossly underestimates their role within the U.S. mili­tary and deprives these dogs of the opportunity to transition to a peaceful civilian life once they are deemed 'excess equipment' and retired from ser­vice. Categorization as equipment creates significant obstacles for service members, their families, and civilian parties who wish to adopt these dogs. This categorization also deprives military working dogs of ongoing medical care upon retirement, eligibility for recognition and commendation, and burial in national military cemeteries. Despite some of the recent improve­ments made in the military's treatment of these dogs, more work is needed. This Article urges Congress to recategorize military working dogs as canine members of the armed forces in order to properly honor their service to this country, and to protect the dignity of these dogs upon retirement.



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