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No Friend Left Behind – Bring Home the Dogs and Cats Adopted by Soldiers

Posted by Humane Future On Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 1:02 PM

There’s probably nothing more touching than soldiers who care for animals in a war zone. These acts of kindness show the best of human nature during the worst of times.

I recently came across this photo which was taken by J.E. Watson while serving in the US. Army’s 46th Armored Infantry Battalion, 5th Armored Division during World War II. Thankfully, the story of “Our Dog Sport” (written on the back) had a happy ending. Mr. Watson’s daughter reports: “This little dog was rescued by a fellow soldier named Walenski. He was found in a ditch in France and stayed with the company until the end of the war. Dad said that one of the soldiers brought him back to the US.” See more of J.E. Watson's WWII photos here

Sadly, today’s military prohibits soldiers in combat zones from helping animals in need. Military regulations state that stray animals are not to be housed or fed, but are to be killed. Compassionate soldiers are forced to disobey the rules, often risking severe consequences.

Although the aim of such regulations is to protect military personnel, ultimately there has to be some common sense and reason applied. The bonds formed with animals in these situations give soldiers comfort and hope. It is a fact that contact with animals provides mental health benefits by decreasing stress and improving mood. Pets adopted by troops are, in effect, therapeutic and morale boosting.

They can also literally save lives. A stray dog named Rocky (seen in the photo to the left) saved his adopted unit by attacking a suicide bomber before he could reach a building filled with soldiers. These soldiers are now trying to get Rocky out of Afghanistan.

“Rocky is the last good thing that I have here, the ONLY thing that I look forward to each day is petting him and loving on him.” – David, soldier serving in Afghanistan

When their tour of duty is up, soldiers who have served our country should never be forced to leave their pets behind. It is our duty as U.S. citizens to make sure their pets come home with them. Military men and women suffer enough without going through the trauma of losing their animal companions.

SPCA International's Operation Baghdad Pups is trying to reunite as many soldiers as possible with their pets from conflict zones. Unfortunately, it costs a great deal of money and time to work through the red tape and logistics of transporting animals from unstable areas of the world.

The U.S. government should be responsible for transporting these companion animals on military flights. After all, the U.S. military already permits the transport of working animals such as bomb detection dogs and search dogs on Department of Defense (DoD) aircraft.

It's the least we can do for the military men and women who give so much.

What you can do:
  1. Write to your representatives in Congress

  2. Support Operation Baghdad Pups

  3. Contact the Department of Defense and request a change to General Order 1A regarding soldiers keeping pets. Unfortunately, the Department of Defense has been unresponsive to the Humane Society and others who have asked for action on this issue for many years. But you can still contact the DoD and let them know that soldiers and animals can interact without endangering the health and safety of the troops.

Lava and Nubs: Two Dogs Rescued from Iraq



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