Push Underway To Help Retired Military Dogs

Woman Wants Military K-9's Treated Like Veterans

Author: Tim Gerber , Reporter, tgerber@ksat.com
Published On: Nov 14 2011 11:46:14 AM CST   Updated On: Oct 14 2011 03:40:25 AM CDT

Since the days of World War II, dogs have been serving on the front lines with U.S. forces.

This past May, when U.S. Special forces raided Osama bin Laden's compound they had a K-9 with them.

But no matter how well they perform in the line of duty, when the dogs reach the end of their careers they aren't treated like veterans. Instead, they are just cast aside like old military surplus.

A local woman is trying to change that. She wants the dogs to be treated more like the veterans they served with.

"I think it's time that we took care of our four legged soldiers," said Lisa Phillips. "Because a lot of these dogs are going over and deploying and getting injured and suffering heat casualties and getting shot at and bombs exploding around them."

Phillips was a veterinarian technician in the Army. She provided care for the military's working dogs at Lackland Air Force Base and at Fort Sam Houston. She helped make sure the dogs were in prime condition to serve with their two-legged companions and no expense was spared.

"They're treated like kings and queens. They get the best medical care and food," Phillips said. "They're very loved and cared for."

Phillips said it's a much different story when the dogs reach the end of their service.

"They're kind of just left out and forgotten once the military is done with them," Phillips said. "The military offers them nothing. In fact, they are considered excess equipment."

According to the military, there are roughly 2,000 active duty military working dogs at any given time and roughly 300 are retired each year.

Some dogs are adopted by their handlers. Others are adopted to good homes to live out their final days without any recognition of their years of service.

Phillips is trying to change that. A few years ago she wrote an essay about the situation for a college English course.

Her professor liked it and encouraged Phillips to approach law makers to see if they could do something about it.

She's now working with Rep. Walter Jones, a Congressman from North Carolina's 3rd Congressional district to pass a bill that will re-classify military dogs as "canine veterans."

Under the as-yet un-filed bill, the military K-9s would be eligible for free medical care and transportation to their adopted families.

Phillips said it won't cost tax payers a dime because she's set up a non-profit that will solicit donations to cover the costs.

"My non-profit will come in and pay for the transportation to their adopted family and for the medical care," Phillips said, adding that many of the details are still being worked out.

Phillips, who has owned two retired military K-9s, would even like to see the dogs awarded medals for their service.

She knows of at least one dog that earned an honorary Purple Heart in 2007 when he and his Marine handler were hit by a rocket in Iraq.

Marine Corporal Dustin Lee was killed in the attack. Through the efforts of Rep. Jones, Lee's dog, Lex, was given an early retirement and was later adopted by Lee's parents.

Phillips said she just wants other military K-9 heroes treated with the same respect.

"Because I know the hard work that they do and the lives that they save and just how wonderful they are to our military," Phillips said. "It could take years but I'm hoping since there's no tax payer money involved it won't take nearly as long as other bills."

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