Forgive me if the following story is old news to you; it has flown under the radar for the past few months and I only recently learned of it. I believe it is noteworthy enough to share and worth revisiting in the off chance that our readers have already read about it somewhere else.
In March, legislation was introduced in Congress that strikes the current classification of U.S. military dogs as “equipment” and instead distinguishes them as “Canine Members of the Armed Forces.” This bipartisan bill was introduced by Representative Walter B. Jones (R-NC) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
If you are anything like me, you may have assumed that these intrepid pups were already recognized as full service members. After all, a majority of U.S. states recognize police dogs as full-fledged members of the police force. Those accused of intentionally harming or killing a police dog are usually charged with a felony, a stiffer penalty than the guidelines recommended by animal cruelty laws. Often times a police dog killed in the line of duty is given a full police funeral, comparable to the ceremony bestowed upon a fallen officer who walks upright rather than on four legs.
In light of these facts, I found it surprising that dogs serving in the military have always been classified as mere “equipment.” I cannot claim any intimate knowledge on the sentiments and opinions of our troops on their canine companions and whether they deserve a less dismissive classification. I just know that I personally find the classification a bit flippant. There is no doubt regarding the important work these dogs perform on the battlefield, both in aiding missions and protecting soldiers. It seems no accident that this issue has been raised in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden, a mission in which military dogs played an essential role.
What do you think? Here’s a link to the original article, which sheds further light on the matter. Do military dogs deserve better? Or is such a promotion tantamount to placing the lives of dogs on the same level as the lives of fallen soldiers?
On a related side note, our readers who enjoy baseball might get a chuckle out of this recent news story: a little over a week ago, Sgt. Rex, a bomb-sniffing dog that served with the Marines in Iraq, was honored along with his handler at Yankee Stadium. Apparently Sgt. Rex was not too big of a fan of New York Yankees perennial all-star and celebrity third baseman, Alex Rodriguez. Find the amusing story here.