The British government has admitted to the premature euthanasia of over 800 war dogs over the last decade. Deemed too dangerous to rehabilitate, they have paid the ultimate price for their service.
Trained to be aggressive and reactive, dogs of war are paying the ultimate price for their service.
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They served as soldiers of war. Side-by-side with their handlers, they entered the field of battle, protecting and serving with loyalty, and without question. Yet for this service they gave their lives, but not to a foreign enemy as one might think. They were sacrificed by the same people who put them there.
Having been deemed too dangerous for adoption by the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD), documents obtained by Britain's Daily Mirror revealed that over the past decade, 807 dogs of war had been prematurely euthanized.
Trained to serve as ferocious warriors by the Ministry of Defence, many of the dogs were healthy, added the Daily Mirror. Yet it is this training that ended their lives. Too fierce for adoption, said the Daily Mail, numbers of euthanized war dogs peaked during years of known conflict. For example, said the newspaper:
"Twenty canines were put down in 2002, the first full year of the conflict in Afghanistan, but that shot up to 89 in 2003 when the Second Gulf War began."
A further 95 were destroyed in 2006, and in 2009 when troops were stationed in Iraq, a staggering 125 service dogs' lives were snuffed out prematurely. MoD statistics revealed around half of the dogs destroyed in 2009 and 2010 were put down because of behavioral issues or old age.
When a dog is suffering, euthanasia is understandable, but for behavioral issues incurred through training and post traumatic stress, where is the justification in punishing what has been taught and encouraged? These dogs have served as equals alongside their handlers and they should be treated as such. They did not choose to go to war for a country, but because of unparalleled loyalty to a human soldier.
Ironically, on the same day the Daily Mirror released its findings, British Forces News featured a story about the connection between handlers and their dogs. At one point in the story: "Soldiers' unique bond with Army dogs," Pte Griffiths explained:
"The relationship you build up with the dogs is fantastic. It’s like having a best friend working alongside you 24/7, and you’ll do anything to keep that dog safe."
Until they come home it seems.
Softer breeds, typically sniffer dogs, often do get to reside with their handlers post combat, but reactive dogs such as German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois tend to possess larger issues after leaving the combat zone. Trained to one handler and therefore not socialized, they have a far harder time adjusting to other people and non-working situations.
But to think this is justification for euthanasia, is a despicable cop out. For their service, these soldiers without uniforms, are still disposable casualties of war. This is not acceptable. These Veterans of War deserve the same considerations as their handlers. For sacrifices rendered, and for countless lives saved, extend them the same courtesy.
Outraged animal lovers have established an online petition aimed at the Ministry of Defense and David Cameron. "This is gratitude?" wrote one person who signed the petition. These dogs of war "should be given medals and a warm homecoming for being heroes," added another person, before going on to slam the British government, "for showing so little loyalty to these four-legged heroes."