It’s Now the Law: Retired Military Dogs Can Be Adopted by Their Handlers

military dogs can be adopted NDAA

On average, every U.S. military dog saves from 150 to 200 servicemen and women during his career. And what rewards are bestowed upon these heroes when they retire from duty overseas?

Until now, none. The sad fact is that they are usually left behind on enemy soil, since these retired working dogs are considered civilians and not permitted on military vehicles. The cost to transport them home is prohibitive.

But military dogs no longer have to face this undeserved fate. Today President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision that not only guarantees that these dogs are returned by the military to the U.S. when they retire, but also that their handlers have first dibs on adopting them as pets.

“The NDAA and its passage will ensure that our four-legged veterans will finally have their chance to come home and live a comfortable quiet life, hopefully with a handler they deployed with or a fellow veteran,” said Lance Corporal Jeff DeYoung, USMC (Ret.), who was reunited with his military war dog Cena with the help of American Humane Association (AHA), in a news release.

“The language in the NDAA is about healing, healing veterans and their families. These dogs have so much love to give…it’s time we show some in return.”

military dog kissing soldier

New York Sen. Charles Schumer (yes, he’s a second cousin of Amy Schumer) pushed for the bill’s language that allows handlers to adopt the dogs who served alongside them.

“After all we know about treating debilitating post war conditions, like PTSD and other health afflictions, it makes absolute sense to keep service members joined with their service dogs,” Schumer said in a Memorial Day press release. “Here we have a commonsense policy that is good for the animals that give it their all for America — and for the American heroes who love these dogs so dearly.”

The NDAA provision, supported by the AHA, was introduced in the House by Rep. Frank LoBiondo and in the Senate by Sen. Claire McCaskill.

“This is the email I’ve been waiting for years to send to you,” wrote Dr. Robin Ganzert, AHA president and CEO, in a message to supporters today.

“We thank these brave heroes for serving our country, and we are grateful that every one will finally get the retirement they deserve with those who care for them most.”

Photo credits: PRNewsFoto/American Humane Association; The U.S. Army

Laura Goldman

I am a freelance writer and lifelong dog lover. For five years, I was a staff writer for i Love Dogs. When that site shut down, I started this blog...because I STILL Love Dogs!