How To Adopt a Military Working DogUpdated: March 31, 2020
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 for military bases to find suitable homes for these hard-working canines.
A September 2019 article published by the dog lovers website PawBuzz.com 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 by loving families, but fewer seem 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 as 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 retired from the military, that’s the other major source of working dogs for adoption.
Many working dogs get adopted by their handlers in uniform, but not all. Some military members would love 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.
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 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 of 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 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?
Many programs help place military dogs. Some of these are focused specifically on military dogs, others may offer service animals from various 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 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.
Military Puppy Foster Homes In Texas
A good example is at Joint Base San Antonio / Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Lackland has a working dog breeding program that features a Puppy Development Program that sends the dogs home at age eight weeks to live with “qualified and dedicated ‘foster’ volunteers from the greater San Antonio/Austin area.”
This is intended to give military puppies a chance to play and grow in different environments and learn how to socialize properly.
This program, offered to those who live within driving distance of the base, is restricted to homes that meet certain requirements, such as a fenced-in backyard. Homes with children are permitted if the kids are age five or older.
The program is specific to Joint Base San Antonio Lackland, but other posts, bases, and installations that train or use working dogs may have similar options. Contact the base Security Forces office or on-post law enforcement to learn who to contact about participating.
Are You Right For A Military Working Dog?
One important factor to consider when deciding whether or not to adopt a military dog is whether or not that is a good fit for you. Some would-be K9 adoption applicants aren’t truly sure if they are making the right choice. There are some questions you can ask yourself to determine whether or not to make the jump to fostering or adopting a working dog. These include:
- Living space for your new pet – Do you have a fenced-in yard or a big enough enclosure to let the dog roam free and happy?
- Do I have enough room in the home or apartment for a dog that needs regular exercise or activity?
- How attentive can you be as a pet owner? Are you gone frequently, or do you stay close to home? Dogs can have abandonment issues that require more attention and mindfulness from the owner.
- What is your perfect dog like?
- Who else lives with you, and are they compatible with the type of commitment you want to make?
The answers to these questions can help you determine whether or not it’s a good move to adopt or foster a dog. Some people are better suited for certain breeds of dogs but not others.
Some are better suited for cats or other animals instead of dogs. The only way to tell is to ask yourself the questions, try to get exposure to the kind of animal you want to adopt, and spend time deciding if that breed has the temperament and energy level you want.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News