A Brief History
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Dogs for Defense program was introduced with the goal of preparing and training dogs fit to fight alongside the military. The United States Army authorized the program in March of 1942, and on March 13th of the same year, the U.S. Army K9 Corps was officially established.
We recognize K9 Veterans Day on March 13th in honor of the official birthday of the U.S. Army K9 Corps.
What Do Working K9 Dogs Do?
Currently, police, rescue, and the military use a variety of techniques for training dogs to become part of K9 Units. The training is catered to fulfill the needs of each unique profession and operation. Although a variety of breeds are used, German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are often chosen and serve until they are about seven or eight years old.
K9s are utilized for numerous purposes, such as detecting narcotics, explosives, mines, IEDS, and even locating missing people. However, K9s are most commonly known for their work in public enforcement.
What Happens When K9 Dogs Retire?
In 2000, Robby’s Law was passed which gave handlers the opportunity to adopt their retired K9s. Sadly, up until that point, it was often customary that military and police dogs were euthanized when they appeared no longer valuable for service.
For some K9s, adjusting to retirement and civilian dog life is not always a smooth transition. Because these working K9s go through extreme forms of training, they may have some behavioral issues. Like humans, some dogs may also struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and need proper help and attention. Most dog breeds used in K9 units have a life span of approximately 11-14 years and may endure significant physical stress during their careers; by the time they retire, they are in their mid-to-senior years. This calls for additional care so that they can continue to stay healthy and happy.
Retired K9s are typically adopted by their handlers or their handler’s family; however, in rare cases, they are adopted by civilians. If a civilian adopts a retired working K9, he or she will go through a qualification process.
If you are interested in learning about how you can help a retired working K9, sniff out Mission K9 Rescue, a non-profit organization based in Houston, TX. Their mission is “To Rescue, Reunite, Re-Home, Rehabilitate, and Repair any retired working dog that has served mankind in some capacity.”