Animal Law Review


Mackenzie Landa

First Page



Military Working Dogs (MWD) are canine service members that provide safety, comfort, love, and sometimes their lives to their human teammates. Soldiers rely on these dogs for companionship, support, and protection. However, handler dog teams are often separated when human soldiers return home from deployment. The dogs, classified as property by the Department of Defense, remain overseas and work until they are no longer useful to the military. Once the military decides a MWD is unable to serve, the dog is often left abroad unless a handler or nonprofit organization can fund the dog’s transport back to the United States. This separation is damaging to both human and canine. When human soldiers returning home from war are unable to remain with their MWD partner, it takes a toll on their health and emotional well-being. Moreover, leaving dogs overseas is an injustice to the dogs who involuntarily serve their country with bravery and loyalty. Although lawmakers have achieved some legislative success to ensure that MWDs are no longer left behind and handlers are given the opportunity to adopt their dogs, there are gaps in the policy and there has been a significant failure to properly implement the legislation. This paper argues that it is necessary to amend military policy to ensure that dog and handler teams remain intact and each handler is given the opportunity to adopt his or her MWD.

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