Can You Adopt Retired Service Dogs

The ability for civilians to rehome military working dogs through military dog adoption is unique. MWD, or military working dogs, is another name for them. In short, the fact that these canines are retired from service makes them very special.

Military working dogs that have been noticeably retired from service are currently on a particular mission to find a forever home. To be clear, prior to 2000, military battle dogs were either put to death or handed to an allying force. A statute enabling the adoption of military dogs was significantly signed by President Clinton in 2000.

Military Working Dogs Could Possess:

  • help with law enforcement
  • assisted with agricultural work.
  • aided in bomb detection.
  • supported search and rescue efforts.
  • acted as scouts for missions.
  • finished the war’s work.
  • aided in the drug’s detection.
  • employed as working or training dogs.
  • working as therapy dogs

What occurs to service animals once they stop working?

It’s not surprising that most of the time, when these dogs are ready to retire, the service dog user keeps them around as a family pet and companion. Another dog fills in as the assistance dog in the interim. There are certain exceptions, though. “One is that, according to Burch, guide dogs for the blind are frequently transferred to another loving home where they can enjoy retirement while a new, well trained dog takes over as the guide dog. Many of these dogs are heroes, and some of them have even helped save military personnel.

According to Conley, clients occasionally decide not to maintain the former service dog because they cannot afford the expenses associated with caring for two dogs. Some people may reside in areas where pets are prohibited but service dogs are allowed. Among other things, it can come down to not having enough room for both pets. If this occurs and the owner is unable to keep their initial service dog, the dog frequently travels with family or friends in order to keep the client relationship intact.

According to Lisa Bernier, CEO of BARK For Good, some organizations demand that the dog come back to them when it may be time to retire so that they can decide whether it will continue to be a service dog or change to a therapy dog. “According to Bernier, they occasionally give the dog back to the original foster family who took care of it when it was a puppy. If placing the dog with a family is not possible, the dog returns to FSD and enrolls in the adoption program. These puppies have a variety of possibilities, but you should be aware that they never wind up in shelters. Additionally, other puppies that are rescue canines can also get the homes they deserve.

How well-suited are retired military dogs as pets?

Many myths about what happens to retired military working dogs once they leave the service were revealed by our story about Rocky, a retired, disabled military working dog who was saved by our appeal.

Many of these animals are adoptable and go to homes that are suitable and loving. Some people are declared unfit for adoption.

Military working dogs, or MWDs, were legally allowed to be abandoned or put down after serving their purpose until recently.

historically thought of as “MWDs were not considered to be valuable beyond the military use for which they were designed. The public’s rising understanding of how these animals were handled after years of faithful service has played a significant role in this paradigm shift.

But one military war dog in particular—a canine by the name of Robby—had an impact on future MWDs.

In November 2000, President Bill Clinton signed Robby’s Law (H.R. 5314), which mandated that all MWDs who were adoptable must be available for adoption after their service. Unfortunately, Robby couldn’t be saved; his previous handler tried desperately to adopt him, but to no effect.

It’s crucial to understand that these animals are different from any you may have at home or find in a nearby shelter.

Not all retired MWDs are wonderful family members. They are highly trained, frequently for lethal objectives, and they may not be acceptable as a family pet because of characteristics that make them good military canines. Although they are devoted to their loved ones, they frequently have distinct thoughts and diverse triggers, or conditioned responses, to different verbal or physical commands.

These canines are frequently not advised for households with young children or other pets. For a variety of reasons, including excessive aggression, some are deemed unfit for adoption.

The military does not give decommissioned military working dogs to shelters, rescues, or sanctuaries for placement due to their distinct temperaments and training.

The Joint Base San Antonio’s 341st Training Squadron oversees all adoptions of military working dogs. The Department of Defense’s Military Working Dog Adoption Program is located here.

A comprehensive evaluation and selection process is used by skilled military personnel to put approximately 300-400 “surplus MWDs per year.

A canine may transition to serve in civilian law enforcement if he is still useful upon disposition or official retirement from the military. A dog that can no longer be used, nevertheless, might be put up for adoption.

Former military handlers are usually given preference, followed by other veterans of the armed forces and subsequently the general public.

The idea that Rocky, a crippled retired MWD who had served three tours in Iraq and was nine and a half years old, would be put down infuriated a lot of people. Most people believed it was heartless of the military to simply take his life after he had given his for the cause, but that isn’t the case at all.

Rocky had a variety of handlers throughout the course of his final few years of service, like many working dogs do. Despite the fact that more than 90% of battle dogs are adopted by their handlers, Rocky no longer had a reliable one. He wasn’t particularly close to any one person.

Other military troops who might have wanted Rocky were eligible to adopt him.

Rocky, however, was unable to go to any household due to the special difficulties caused by his condition. He wanted someone who could take their time and be patient with him. The military decided to put him up for euthanasia because no suitable adoptive could be identified and the base kennels are inadequate for handling impaired animals.

After confirming the details, we posted Rocky’s plight and, as they say, the rest is history. Rocky was adopted after our post received more than 50,000 hits, and a deluge of applications from throughout the nation.

We will always be grateful to the Camp Pendleton veterinary staff for sharing Rocky’s tale and allowing us the chance to save his life.

How may a working dog for the military be obtained?

Prospective dog parents who are interested must fill out papers and respond to inquiries on the dog’s living arrangements and training regimen.

The adoption of one of these four-legged heroes is also not open to everyone. Applicants must have a six-foot fence, no children younger than five, and no more than three dogs already residing in their home in order to be considered. They must also supply a transport box, provide two references, and mention a veterinarian on the application.

Update: JBSA officials said that they are no longer accepting applications due to the program’s popularity. They stated that applications might reopen in late 2021.

What occurs to guide dogs who are unsuccessful?

We are thrilled that the vast majority of the dogs we breed and train to serve as guide dogs are successful.

However, dogs may be removed from the training program or from their position as a guide dog at any time. Some dogs may also retire, in which case we try to find them new homes.

Dogs that aren’t good for our jobs make wonderful pets! Others simply don’t have the temperament to make a good guide dog, some have medical issues that make them unfit for our line of work, and some retire. Although it is frequently possible, many of our retired dogs will remain with their owners, a member of their family, or a friend.

Can you keep a service animal indefinitely?

When, and ideally before, showing signs of physical or mental health issues that limit their capacity to perform, animals should retire. There are currently no standardized, defined rules or evidence-based research that specify when an assistance animal should retire. An established international umbrella group called Assistance Dogs International (ADI) offers leadership and membership to authorized non-profit organizations that train and place assistance dogs. Assistance dog organizations around the world consult them as a major authority on assistance dog matters. Assistance dog retirement is not specifically addressed in ADI standards (33). Gorbing (34), ADI’s secretary, claims “There are no mandatory standards for the retirement of assistance dogs within ADI, though some of the other standards, such as the requirement for programs to follow up annually with all of their clients and the requirement to obtain a veterinary report assessing the dog’s fitness to continue working, do address the issue to some extent. For people looking for official guidance, there are no common standards.

When an assistance dog agency still owns the dog, each organization may have its own criteria for determining when the dog is ready to retire. Typically, these criteria are based on veterinarian reports, yearly reports from handlers, and site visits (2). The retirement of dogs from organizations that fully transfer ownership to the handler or canines that are independently trained and owned by their handlers, however, is not subject to any regulation. Gorbing (34) further observes that “Programs are required to help clients get ready for the dog’s eventual retirement by giving them support and knowledge. In actuality, it is always a difficult matter to handle, but from my experience, it is quite obvious when the time for retirement comes if programs start from an awareness of what is best for the dog.

By Health Status

Any illness that prevents the animal from working is the most obvious reason for retirement. When an animal’s physical condition changes, a veterinarian should be consulted and work should stop until the issue has been fully treated. In one study, 7,686 guide dogs in the UK were examined for health issues, retirement dates, and reasons for retirement (35). Musculoskeletal and neurological disorders were the most frequent reasons for guiding dog early retirement (35). Slowing down, weakness, challenges moving up and down stairs, and difficulties getting out of bed are all clinical indicators of musculoskeletal disease. The primary factor and diagnosis of the musculoskeletal symptoms that required retirement was osteoarthritis (35). Seizures, circling, falling, and paraparesis are examples of clinical indications of neurologic illness. The primary factor and diagnosis of the neurologic symptoms that required retirement was epilepsy (35).

The assistance animal may pass away from a variety of other illnesses that impact different body systems and limit their ability to function. Excessive coughing, an elevated respiratory rate, breathing difficulties, weakness, and collapse are all clinical indicators of cardiorespiratory disease. These symptoms necessitate prompt care because they may be a sign of an illness with a short lifespan. Vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, and weight loss are some of the clinical indications of gastrointestinal disease. Even though many gastrointestinal disorders may be transient and likely result from dietary error, persistent symptoms call for retirement. Urinary incontinence, increased drinking, increased urination, and straining to pee are all clinical indications of urinary illness. A complete veterinary study is required due to the possibility that these symptoms are connected to endocrine problems. Scratching, rashes, and skin lumps are some of the clinical indications of dermatological disorder. Atopic dermatitis-related dermatologic disorders were interestingly the conditions that cut the working lives of guide dogs the shortest, by an average of 5 years (35).

An assistance animal’s quality of life is severely impacted by sensory impairments, particularly those that influence hearing and vision. Navigational challenges, abrupt blindness, clouding of the eye, excessive ocular discharge, and eye redness are all clinical indications of ophthalmic disease. Decreased responses to sounds or verbal commands, which can be more challenging to understand, are clinical symptoms of hearing loss. Generally speaking, any physical alterations in the animal’s health, such as lethargy, weakness, a change in activity or rest, and alterations in performance, should be attended to right away. Most significantly, any circumstances that cause the animal great suffering call for a halt to work. When an animal is trying to recuperate from a medical problem, it shouldn’t be made to work, and veterinarian advice is required to establish whether and when the animal should return to work.

A veterinarian examination and advice from a behaviorist are required when there have been changes in behavior. Clinical indications of a behavioral disorder include hostility, vocalization, abnormal conduct, attitude changes, and disorientation, however it is important to rule out any underlying systemic medical disorders first. Actually, neurologic, endocrine, or pain-related illnesses may be the cause of behavioral alterations. In addition, older dogs who show changes in their mental state may have canine cognitive impairment, which is the canine version of Alzheimer’s disease. All older canines have a prevalence of 14.222.5% for cognitive impairment (36, 37). The disorder is characterized by disrupted sleep patterns, fewer social interactions, disorientation, anxiety, and urinating in the house. Despite the fact that the disease’s growth can be slowed down and managed, the condition is incurable and undoubtedly affects the assistance dog’s capacity for employment, necessitating retirement.

Additionally, vets and handlers should keep an eye out for behavioral indications of stress and anxiety. Increased restlessness, snout licking, paw lifting, yawning, body trembling, nosing, circling, increased locomotor activity, and a lowering of body posture are all classic signs of stress in dogs (38, 39). The first hint that retirement may be taken into consideration may be an increase in these modest behavioral signs of work-related stress. Handlers must therefore closely monitor any trends in these indications.

By Age

While these alterations in physical well-being and behavior suggest retirement contemplation, the optimum retirement should be imposed far before symptoms of sickness appear. This poses a problem since a person might not think that a healthy animal has to be retired, especially if it is performing its job to the best of its ability. However, the animal should go into retirement so that it can do so in good health as opposed to a weak condition. Although the ideal amount of time for an animal to be retired and in good condition is unclear, it is appropriate to think about it when the animal reaches the senior life stage, which is the final quarter of a dog’s estimated lifespan (40).

Some people might be tempted to use age as the primary consideration for retirement in order to overcome the difficulty of retiring a healthy animal. Given that different species and breeds have different life spans, applying an age cut-off may not be reliable. For instance, it is generally acknowledged that larger dog breeds live shorter lives than smaller kinds (41, 42). Of fact, since genetics and preventive health care practices play significant roles in lifespan, this is not always the case. For instance, a chihuahua whose lifespan was predicted to be 16 years could be stopped at 12 years old in order to attain 25% of life in retirement, but it could also die at 13 years old as a result of an unanticipated ailment. In contrast, a great dane that was predicted to live to be 8 years old could be told to retire at 6 years old in order to accomplish 25% of a healthy life in retirement yet still live to be 12 years old. These would therefore have been incorrect decisions to make.

Age is merely a number, and this imprecise evaluation of age as a factor in retirement presupposes that the animal is maturing healthily. Healthy aging is a natural process of aging that is characterized by cognitive and behavioral health as well as regular operation of various bodily systems (43). Normal aging-related changes, including as graying of the muzzle and a little decline in activity, are inevitable even in the absence of sickness (44). Healthy aging is linked to behavioral modifications include a drop in attentiveness (45), play intensity, and command compliance (46). It’s interesting to note that healthy aging dogs start to spend less time interacting with humans and more time just being around them (47). Because of this, an elder assistance dog’s decision to simply be present and not necessarily interact with the handler should not surprise the handler. It is important to distinguish between this good aging phenomena and senescence, which is characterized as the cumulative, degenerative changes that adversely impair an older dog’s quality of life (44). Osteoarthritis and declines in vision, hearing, and smell are some symptoms of aging (48). Every assistance animal must receive routine veterinarian care in order to age healthily. Every support animal should ideally be evaluated every two years, especially as they get older.

According to estimates, the average working life of service and working dogs, which are typically Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers, is eight years (35, 49). They are normally retired at around 10 years old because the majority of working dogs do not formally start their jobs until they are 2 years old. The belief that an animal should retire when it has lived for 3/4 of its lifespan is congruent with retiring at 10 years because these breeds of dogs typically live for 1214 years. Another study found that skin nodules and increased alanine aminotransferase (ALT), a liver-related enzyme detected on normal bloodwork, were connected with early death in guide dogs (50). Therefore, in order to accurately analyze the health statuses of assistance dogs, vets should regularly evaluate bloodwork and carefully inspect the skin. If an assistance dog exhibits skin nodules or signs of an elevated ALT, it may be best to retire it earlier than intended because it may live a shorter life than the normal support dog.