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    Military dog adoptions: Army procedures to give former handlers priority

    The Army is working to establish dog adoption procedures that would give priority to former handlers.

    Maj. Gen. Mark S. Inch said an Army dog adoption program didn’t follow regulatory processes perfectly, but it complied with the law and intent. The two-star general made his response last month in a letter to North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr.

    “The Army is working in conjunction with our sister services to establish and codify future adoption procedures,” Inch said. “It is our intent that all former dog handlers be given the right of first refusal during future adoption processes, and we remain grateful for the sacrifices of our military working dogs and to those who support and work alongside them.”

    The adoption process previously followed Air Force procedures because the Air Force is the executive agency for military dog disposition. That process meant law enforcement agencies had a chance to adopt dogs before former handlers.

    There also was no legal requirement at the time to notify former handlers that their dogs were available for adoption. The only requirement was to allow handlers wounded in action or the family of handlers killed in action to have the first opportunity to adopt the dog, according to the Office of the Provost Marshal General.

    Both of those procedures have changed.

    Maj. Olivia Nunn, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Provost Marshal, said the office tweaked prioritization for adoptions by giving former handlers priority over law enforcement agencies.

    And last year an amendment was added to the National Defense Authorization Act requiring service members be contacted first for the opportunity to adopt.

    The dog program – Tactical Explosive Detector Dog – was established in January 2011 as a contract solution to shortages in the Military Working Dog program, Inch said. The Army-funded program was designed to be temporary and to support Army brigade combat teams by providing maneuver units with bomb-sniffing dogs to mitigate casualties from improvised explosive devices.

    The program came to the attention of the Office of the Provost Marshal General of the Army in 2013, before Inch took command, Nunn said.

    The dogs in the program were trained by non-military police handlers at contracted facilities in Indiana, and later North Carolina, Inch said.

    Once trained, the dogs were deployed with their handlers to search for explosives in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

    The program ended in February 2014 as U.S. Central Command curtailed the requirement for bomb sniffing dogs, Inch said.

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