K9 Veterans Day is observed on March 13th every year thanks to Joe White, a Vietnam War veteran, K9 handler, and coach.
On March 13th, 1942, the United States K9 Corps was inducted. From that point forward, these dogs turned into a piece of our military service. We have Border Patrol K9s, Customs K9s, Police K9s, Secret Service K9s, Airport Service K9s, and FBI K9s, to name a few. Every day these K9s work to ensure the safety of Americans and our homeland.
Helping Protect Our Protectors
Before 2000, there were no protections in place to ensure Military War Dogs (MWDs) could have a safe life after their military service. MWDs were viewed as “surplus equipment,” with no value beyond the military purpose they were trained to carry out. The approximately 5,000 MWDs that served during the Vietnam War, roughly 2,700 were left in South Vietnam, 1,600 of which were euthanized.
This changed when the story of an MWD named Robby entered public awareness. Robby’s former handler petitioned to adopt him after he was retired from service as an MWD. His request was denied for unspecified reasons, and Robby was euthanized.
On September 27th, 2000, Representative Roscoe Bartlet introduced a bill to help change the fate of MWDs like Robby. Robby’s Law required that all MWDs deemed suitable for adoption should be available for placement after retirement from service. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law in November of 2000.
On June 1st, 2015, the Military Dog Retirement Bill, a bill sponsored by Representative Walter Jones, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and the US War Dog Association, was introduced. The bill passed by both the Senate and the House and was signed into law by President Barack Obama. This law stipulates that MWDs may no longer be deemed “equipment” and are eligible to be adopted and gave priority for the adoption of retired MWDs to law enforcement agencies or former handlers.
Military Working Dogs Today
There are approximately 3,000 Military Working Dogs deployed all over the world. They are used for sniffing out improvised explosive devices, locating weapons caches down-range, and guarding against the entry of illegal narcotics or substances into military installations.
Candidate dogs must undergo intensive screening and training to serve in the military. The K9s go to the Military War Dog program and train with the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. They are exposed to a variety of simulated war scenarios that include explosions, fires, machine gun, and rifle fire. Candidate dogs must also be able to scale walls, navigate underground tunnels, and climb ladders without showing any signs of hesitation or distress.
March 13th - National K9 Veterans Day
Thanks to Joe White of Jacksonville, Florida, the veteran of the Vietnam War, and his wife Sally, we celebrate National K9 Veterans Day on March 13th because that is the day that the US K9 Corps was created. Sally continues the effort to make this an official national holiday. Supporters hope that March 13th be celebrated at military war dog memorials all across the US to commemorate these special veterans that help keep Americans and our land safe.