March 13th has been designated as National K9 Veterans Day to honor the sacrifices and the service of US military and working dogs. This specific date is chosen because the War Dog Program, also known as K-9 Corps, was initiated by the army on March 13th, 1942. Since the day dogs were officially recognized as an integral part of the United States Armed Forces.
A military dog trainer named Joseph White gave the idea for the day. White died in 2009 and National K-9 Veterans Day remained without official recognition. However some states recognize it – New Jersey was the first one, followed by Michigan, West Virginia, and Florida.
This day honors all the dogs who have served in the military, and their human companions. These amazing animals have been by our side in times of war and conflict, and have saved countless lives.
Dogs have been used by the military for centuries, and their roles have changed over time. Originally, they were used as sentries or to warn of incoming danger. But as wars became more complex, dogs were relied on to perform more specialized tasks. They could be trained to sniff out explosives or drugs, track down enemy soldiers, or even carry supplies.
The History of National K9 Veterans Day
During the Second World War, precisely after the Pearl Harbor Bombing, many things changed for the worse. Essential supplies like leather, rubber, and oil were rationed, women were ordered to create war supplies and men were continuously trained for the war. Dogs were also called to duty. Unlike the message carriers and sentries, canines were during the First World War the purpose of Dogs for Defense (War Dog Program) was to make them capable of military use. Mrs. Alene Erlanger was the private citizen that initiated the program in cooperation with the AKC (American Kennel Club) and many reputable breeders. An interesting fact is that the first dogs used as military dogs were actually family pets.
The first group of dogs coming out Dogs for Defense was ready by November 1942. They were sent for duty in North Africa where they proved that all the training paid off, despite the initial gun shy behavior. The demand for trained dogs increased and as the war progressed Dogs for Defense could no longer keep up, so SID (Service Installations Divisions) took over instead to be responsible for the training of US military dogs. Even though the training was so to say undeveloped back then, the methods kept changing over the years to be tailor-made for the specific job a K9 unit was meant for – police, military, and rescue. Today each trained dog and his handler are prepared to perform their duties to the fullest.
The United States army used to leave service dogs behind after fighting a war overseas or euthanize them simply because it was too expensive to ship them back home. This phenomenon changed after the Robby’s Law was signed in 2000 and healthy working dogs couldn’t be euthanized any more. Nowadays they are retired veterans that get adopted either by their former handlers or by other people that can provide a good life for a deserving canine.
How to Celebrate National K9 Veterans Day
As we mentioned before, March 13th represents the day when the US Army K9 Corps was officially formed back in 1942. This day is a great time to revise historical facts and find out more about the Second World War and why it should never happen again. As some states haven’t officially recognized, use the day post on social media to raise awareness and possibly influence the local authorities to reconsider the legislation.
Today, there are many programs that train service dogs specifically for veterans with PTSD or other disabilities. These dogs provide invaluable support and companionship and have truly saved lives. On national k9 veterans day, we salute all the brave dogs who have served our country, as well as their human companions. Thank you for your service! Remember to also take your service dog for an annual eye exam.
Project dedicated to support and help to improve Veterinary Medicine. Sharing information and raising discussions in the veterinary community.