In what can only be called a terrible oversight, there are apparently no regulations currently in place to facilitate the retirement of American military dogs and the return of those dogs to their soldier handlers. Until now. A new bill would change the language of current rules for the use of dogs in the military to make it mandatory that these soldier dogs be retired on U.S. soil, where they can be more easily reunited with their former handlers.

At present, the law regulating the retirement of military dogs allows, but does not require, that they be retired on U.S. soil. Why is this such a big deal? Because once a dog is retired, the animal is no longer considered part of the military. Technically, it means that the dog is no longer considered "military equipment," but that's a whole separate issue.

Since retired military dogs are no longer part of the military, it means they can no longer be transported in military planes, trucks or convoys. It means the very military they served so faithfully no longer takes responsibility for their well-being. So even if a former handler living in the U.S. begs to adopt the dog, they can't do that without the intervention of private organizations that may or may not be able to get the dog home. Now, many dogs are given up for adoption in the country where their tour ends.

There are so many things wrong with this. I'm not even sure where to start. But the new bill, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, would provide a simple fix for at least a few of these issues. According to Wyden's press release, the Military Working Dog Retirement Act of 2015 would require the Department of Defense to arrange and pay for transportation of soldier dogs to the United States when their service abroad is over, even if it is due to injury. Once that dog is here in the U.S., it will be so much easier for former handlers to find and reunite with their dogs.

“The bond between these military working dogs and their handlers is unique,” Wyden said. “By bringing these dogs that have served alongside our men and women in uniform back to the United States, this bill can provide assistance to veterans while supporting the close bond between these dogs and our soldiers returning home.”

According to the Department of Defense, there are about 2,000 dogs currently working in the various branches of the military to sniff for roadside bombs and other explosive devices. These dogs serve their country just like any other soldier and form strong bonds with their soldier handlers during their service. Experts estimate that each military dog saves the lives of between 150-200 service members.

It's about time these dogs get the respect they have earned — so they can retire as pets and also as military veterans.

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