Of the roughly 4,900 dogs that the United States used in Vietnam, around 2,700 were turned over to the South Vietnamese army, and a staggering 1,600 were euthanized. Today, military working dogs are no longer left in war zones like they were in Vietnam. But until 2000, it was legal and common practice to euthanize military working dogs, known as MWDs, at the end of their useful service. Historically viewed as “surplus equipment,” they weren’t seen as having value beyond the military purpose for which they were trained. That mindset has changed dramatically, due in no small part to the public’s growing awareness of how these animals were treated after years of dutiful service. But it was one military war dog in particular – a dog named Robby – whose own fate changed that of other MWDs to come. Robby’s Law (H.R.5314) was signed by President Bill Clinton in November 2000 and required that all MWDs suitable for adoption be available for placement after their service. Unfortunately it was too late to save Robby, whose former handler fought valiantly to adopt him, to no avail.
Below is the current Public Law 114-92, which mandates Title 10 U.S. Code § 2583 “Robby’s Law.” This was signed into law on 11/25/15 and gives handlers first priority along with other changes. The original “Robby’s Law” can be found here. During the 2014 TEDD adoption events, the order of priority was described as follows (#2), and the full version of the DoD’s MWD Adoption Program FAQs effective during the TEDD adoptions is available here: AFD-120611-035 DOD Adoption FAQs (since the official website is not operational and these are now outdated due to the 11/25/15 revisions). We have included these so you can understand what SHOULD have been followed for the TEDD adoptions. #3 means that DynCorp and Soliden Technologies (along with any other private contractors that we aren’t aware of) should NOT have been allowed to acquire these MWDs.
10 U.S. Code § 2583 – Military animals: transfer and adoption
- US Code
a) Availability for Adoption.—
The Secretary of the military department concerned shall make a military animal of such military department available for adoption by a person or entity referred to in subsection (c), unless the animal has been determined to be unsuitable for adoption under subsection (b), under circumstances as follows:
(1) At the end of the animal’s useful life.
(2) Before the end of the animal’s useful life, if such Secretary, in such Secretary’s discretion, determines that unusual or extraordinary circumstances, including circumstances under which the handler of a military working dog is killed in action, dies of wounds received in action, or is medically retired as a result of injuries received in action, justify making the animal available for adoption before that time.
(3) When the animal is otherwise excess to the needs of such military department.
(b) Suitability for Adoption.—
The decision whether a particular military animal is suitable or unsuitable for adoption under this section shall be made by the commander of the last unit to which the animal is assigned before being declared excess. The unit commander shall consider the recommendations of the unit’s veterinarian in making the decision regarding the adoptability of the animal.
(c) Authorized Recipients.—
(1) A military animal shall be made available for adoption under this section, in order of recommended priority—
(A) by former handlers of the animal;
(B) by other persons capable of humanely caring for the animal; and
(C) by law enforcement agencies.
(2) If the Secretary of the military department concerned determines that an adoption is justified under subsection (a)(2) under circumstances under which the handler of a military working dog is wounded in action, the dog shall be made available for adoption only by the handler. If the Secretary of the military department concerned determines that such an adoption is justified under circumstances under which the handler of a military working dog is killed in action or dies of wounds received in action, the military working dog shall be made available for adoption only by a parent, child, spouse, or sibling of the deceased handler.
The transfer of a military animal under this section may be without charge to the recipient.
(e) Limitations on Liability for Transferred Animals.—
(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the United States shall not be subject to any suit, claim, demand or action, liability, judgment, cost, or other fee arising out of any claim for personal injury or property damage (including death, illness, or loss of or damage to property or other economic loss) that results from, or is in any manner predicated upon, the act or omission of a former military animal transferred under this section, including any training provided to the animal while a military animal.
(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the United States shall not be liable for any veterinary expense associated with a military animal transferred under this section for a condition of the military animal before transfer under this section, whether or not such condition is known at the time of transfer under this section.
(f) Transfer of Retired Military Working Dogs.—
(1) If the Secretary of the military department concerned determines that a military working dog should be retired the Secretary shall transfer the dog—
(A) to the 341st Training Squadron; or
(B) to another location within the United States for adoption under this section.
(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply if at the time of retirement—
(A) the dog is located outside the United States and a United States citizen or service member living abroad adopts the dog; or
(B) the dog is located within the United States and suitable adoption is available where the dog is located.
(g) Preference in Adoption of Retired Military Working Dogs for Former Handlers.—
(1) In providing for the adoption under this section of a retired military working dog described in paragraph (1) or (3) of subsection (a), the Secretary of the military department concerned shall accord a preference to the former handler of the dog unless the Secretary determines that adoption of the dog by the former handler would not be in the best interests of the dog.
(2) In the case of a dog covered by paragraph (1) with more than one former handler seeking adoption of the dog at the time of adoption, the Secretary shall provide for the adoption of the dog by such former handler whose adoption of the dog will best serve the interests of the dog and such former handlers. The Secretary shall make any determination required by this paragraph with respect to a dog following consultation with the kennel master of the unit at which the dog was last located before adoption under this section.
(3) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as altering, revising, or overriding any policy of a military department for the adoption of military working dogs by law enforcement agencies before the end of the dogs’ useful lives.
(h) Military Animal Defined.—In this section, the term “military animal” means the following:
(1) A military working dog.
(2) A horse owned by the Department of Defense.