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How To Adopt a Military Working Dog

Do you want to learn how to adopt a military working dog? If some headlines are to be believed, there is an active supply of retired or about-to-retire military dogs available for adoption, but it can be difficult at times for military bases to find suitable homes for these hard working canines.

A September 2019 article published by the dog lovers website came with the headline, “Air Force Is Desperately Looking For People To Adopt Some Of The Retired Military Working Dogs,” and indicates that age and “cute factor” are considerations when people are thinking about adopting a military dog.

That means that younger dogs that don’t make the cut are easily adopted to loving families, but fewer seem to be willing to take a chance on a mature, older dog that doesn’t have the same appeal as a younger, more excitable animal.

Why Are Military Working Dogs Put Up For Adoption?

Military working dogs are available for adoption by civilian families for two basic reasons, though there may be more. Some dogs simply aren’t cut out for the discipline of military work–they are easily scared by gunfire or other loud noises, they may not be able to take the training requirements due to attention issues or other problems, etc.

The bottom line? Some younger dogs are up for adoption without seeing a single day of duty because they aren’t right for the job.

That doesn’t mean they are mean or prone to biting or aggression. It just means that like some of their human counterparts, dogs too can wash out of basic training.

And no, dogs don’t go through the same boot camp with their human counterparts, but they do get their own kind of specialized training.

Military Working Dogs Retire From Military Service, Too

Other dogs pass their training with flying colors, have good careers with their human military handlers, and finish their K9 tours of duty. When a military working dog is being retired from the military, that’s the other major source of working dogs for adoption.

A lot of working dogs get adopted by their handlers in uniform, but not all. Some military members would love nothing more than to adopt their K9 working dog, but military duty prevents them from doing so due to multiple deployments, injuries, reassignment to remote duty locations, etc.

Some Dogs Get Sick Or Injured And Must Be Retired Early

A military working dog that passes initial training may be retired early if the dog becomes ill or gets wounded. A dog doesn’t necessarily have to have a terminal illness to be retired from duty. A condition that makes the dog unable to perform its duties could force its handlers to retire the dog early and try to find a good home for an animal that has served well, but simply cannot do so any longer.

Some Dogs Have Been Adopted But Need Foster Homes

Some military working dogs are adopted by the dog’s handler or partner, or by a third party, but circumstances force the owner to put the dog up for adoption due to deployment, reassignment, hardship duty, remote assignment, etc.

These dogs found a home, but need a new one and often come up for foster care or adoption as a result.

Third Party Agencies That Can Help You Adopt A Military Dog

The official website for the Department of Defense has a blog called DoDLive which lists a group of agencies that help place working dogs into foster care or permanent care. They include:

  • Pets for Patriots

  • Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet

  • Pact for Animals

  • Loving Paws Inc.

Note that none of the agencies in the list above are at .mil addresses, these are private organizations not part of the federal government. Plans, policies, and requirements may vary and are subject to change. These third parties are dedicated to helping place military dogs with appropriate caregivers.

How To Adopt A Military Working Dog

The first thing to do is to narrow down whether or not you specifically want a military dog or a working dog from any other walk of life including law enforcement, private security, work with the disabled, etc. Adopting a military dog requires some awareness of the animal’s training, socialization, and ability to interact with people.

Requirements For Adopting A Military Dog

The specific requirements for adopting a working dog will vary depending on the agency, but let’s examine the rules for the Pets For Patriots program to get an idea of what you can expect in this area:

  • Driving distance requirement: Pets For Patriots requires the applicant to live within a specific, reasonable driving distance to a shelter that has partnered with the agency, and within a specific driving distance of a veterinary partner.

  • Proof of Service: Military members are required to provide proof of current service or military discharge.

  • Pets For Patriots requires additional documentation for those suffering from mental health issues.

  • Pets For Patriots does not train or adopt animals intended to be service dogs. It adopts out canines specifically for companionship purposes. That means the dog can have a service background, but it will not receive any service training as part of the adoption process.

Who Is Doing The Adoption?

There are many programs that help place military dogs. Some of these are focused specifically on military dogs, others may offer service animals from a variety of backgrounds. Be sure to ask if you are specifically interested in a military dog trained by the Army, Air Force, etc.

Criteria for the animals up for adoption will vary depending on the agency. You may find that the service dogs available from some providers must be at least two years old, and there may be specific health requirements.

Military Bases May Offer Foster Or Adoption Programs

If you decide you want to work directly with a military agency, you are in luck. Some bases have adoption programs not just for retired working dogs, but also for bona fide foster care for animals that are in a military training program and need a foster family to socialize with during that training.

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Meet Bill

SUPPORT STAFF SPOTLIGHT MEET BILL –TRAINER II I started my career with DVS in December of 2019 where I began as an agent. During that time, I had the opportunity to advance, from an agent to a manage


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