US military working dogs should be born in the US, says senator

A Democratic lawmaker wants the Pentagon to buy American on its Military Working Dog program.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut included an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 that would require the US Air Force, which oversees the Pentagon program, to conduct a case study of what it would take to buy dogs from American rather than European breeders. sources.

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“I was surprised to learn from the Air Force that the vast majority of our working dogs are actually born and bred in Europe, which increases costs and puts us in competition with other countries. “Blumenthal said in a statement to Military.com on Wednesday. . Bloomberg News was first to report the story.

“I wanted to do what I could to help establish a solid program for breeding working dogs here at home, where we already have an expert training program. Our provision in this year’s NDAA takes the first step. toward this goal by assessing the resources needed for the Department of Defense to meet the growing demand for military working dogs by supporting American breeders,” he said.

The Air Force spends about $5 million a year on the program, purchasing about 450 dogs each year, according to service spokeswoman Laura McAndrews. The dogs are trained at the 341st Training Squadron, an extension of the 37th Training Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. The 341st, which trains and cares for working dogs from DoD and other government agencies, has a separate operating budget of about $8 million, she said in an email.

It costs about $5,500 to buy a dog in Europe, according to statistics provided by the Air Force. The service pays around $9,000 per dog in the US

The domestic market has thinned out in recent years, McAndrews said, especially for the type of dogs the Pentagon wants, including Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd breeds.

“There is simply no market value for a vendor running a breeding program at the capacity necessary to meet DoD requirements,” she said, adding that these breeds are readily available in Europe in due to an “almost century-old tradition of breeding, training, selling and competing with trained police-type working dogs in almost all Western and European countries.”

It was not immediately clear if there were any additional costs to moving the dogs across the Atlantic; McAndrews could not provide that information before press time.

“Regardless of the supply location, the training cost is about $60,000 per dog,” she said.

The Pentagon purchased 427 working dogs last year – 214 from domestic sellers and 213 overseas. But of the 214 dogs purchased domestically, 194 were born in Europe, the service said.

Turning to American breeders might become a short-term necessity, Blumenthal said, solely because of the demand for the dogs.

Blumenthal noted that dogs are no longer seen as mere “military equipment” and are instrumental in augmenting troops on the battlefield.

“We’ve made tremendous strides in protecting and supporting these heroic animals…expanding their access to medical care and making adoption easier,” he said. “I have also included language in the NDAA to require a new report from the Comptroller General on the welfare and health of working dogs across the federal government.”

Some military working dogs have even become famous over the years. For example, President Donald Trump last year awarded a Medal of Honor to Conan, the Belgian Malinois who chased Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi through a tunnel before the man blew it up. a suicide vest.

Similarly, Cairo, also a Belgian Malinois, in 2011 helped secure the perimeter and detect bombs around the house where a Navy SEAL team eliminated Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader behind the 9/11 attacks.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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Bette C. Alvarado