Adopting Military Dogs
Those that were chosen to defend America, upon retirement, need a family to love. The military has a great adoption program for their military dogs. American Thinker had the privilege to interview Shane Larsen, who is the military working dog adoptions coordinator. He is a former Air Force staff sergeant who was an instructor and trainer at the Lackland Canine School as well as a former handler.
The adoption program originated in November 2000 as a result of the "Robby Law," preventing the euthanization of four-legged warriors. Robby, a Belgian Malinois dog was euthanized even though his handler made every effort to adopt him. Although this law did not save Robby, it specifies that the military dog can and should be adopted. Those first in line are any of the former handlers, next in line are law enforcement agencies, and finally qualified families.
The dogs up for adoption are either those that did not pass the rigorous certification process to become a military working dog, a training dog that no longer could perform, or those that have been in combat with some medical issues. A family gets dog that has been spayed or neutered, while only having to incur a cost of the collar, leash, and transportation fees. Anyone adopting must go to the base where the dog is stationed and pick them up in person after going through a face-to-face interview with Larsen and the dog. Larsen noted, "Those dogs that do not meet the standards is due to behavioral and environmental issues, where they are unable to handle their job. However, before a dog is put up for adoption many different people evaluate them. If they are put up for adoption, I consider it an honor that I am the one responsible to find a home. You have to be a dog lover to work in this field."
Ninety to ninety-five percent of the former handlers adopt their partner. The home base handles the adoption with Lackland being the middleman who signs off on the paperwork. The kennel master at the home base is the one to notify the previous handlers that the dog is in the adoption program. It is not hard to find the handler since, according to Larsen, "There is a list of every handler who ever worked with the dog so they can be tracked down."
The average age for those retired is about 9 years, while the average age for those who do not make it through the training program is 16 to 18 months. Since most law enforcement agencies will not take a dog over the age of four there are a lot of older adult dogs available. Lackland Air Force Base in Texas has the largest volume of dogs, in the hundreds. But, if someone does not want to travel there, they can try adopting from a base near them since "where ever there are dogs there will be adoptions."
How does the process work if someone is interested? The DOD has come a long way since the "Robby Law." There is a lot of scrutiny that goes into someone being selected. A person must fill out a detailed application by hand or electronically. Since there are 500 to 600 applicants the wait period is an average of 12 to 18 months. One of the first questions is, "what is the ideal dog you are looking for?" In this case, the more specific someone is about age, sex, or breed the longer they may have to wait.
Through a rigorous screening process Larsen makes sure that people understand about the breed they are adopting. Since the wait period is long he uses it to his advantage by re-asking the questions during a face-to-face or phone interview and comparing that to the answers given on the application.
He told American Thinker that an important consideration is a person's housing situation. "If they want a younger dog and live in an apartment what is their exercise program? Living on an upper floor of an apartment with only stairs is also not suitable for an older dog. Also, we usually will not adopt a dog out to anyone with children eight years or younger. Sometimes I will go through 20 to 25 applications to find the right person for a particular dog. We are very, very picky as to who will get a dog. A lot of people do not qualify."
From time to time there are those adopters who realize they made a bad decision, but unfortunately once the adoption is finalized the dog is their responsibility and they must find the dog a new home. Thankfully, because of the scrutiny and the detailed explanations of what is expected "this usually does not happen. We make sure a very detailed medical history is given out as well as making the adopter aware of a particular condition, the commands the dog knows, and what are the preferred toys. In fact, the feedback I get from the adopters is that once you have a military working dog it is hard to get any other type of dog. There is no comparison regarding the passion, the bond, and the attachment these dogs show, which is why repeaters are willing to wait months."
A military dog should be adopted because it is an act of kindness, although it may be on the part of the dog. Anyone who has adopted a military dog or plans on doing it will be able to pay back these four-legged warriors with the luxury of a loving home. Larsen said it best, "Those adopting will get a lifelong companion that has served their country and will form a bond like something they never had before."
The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.