K9s In The Military

Dr. Larry Mangum


Appalachian Animal Hospital

It was during World War I that the U.S. Military began using dogs to aid in the war effort.

The brave K-9 soldiers were utilized to deliver messages between troops at great cost. It is estimated that as many as a million dogs were killed in action during the war.

It wasn’t until the next World War, that the K9 Corps was officially created. On March 13, 1942, dogs were officially adopted into the U.S. Military ranks.

In World War II, the dogs served as more than messengers. They were used in the Pacific Theater to help recapture islands overrun by Japanese forces. They were used on the Homefront to patrol the shoreline. And the Navy employed dogs to guard its shipyards.

In Vietnam, K9 troops reportedly saved about 10,000 lives.

Prior to 2000, however, K9 troops served without thought to what would happen after their tour of duty ended. They were thought of, in some cases, as equipment rather than personnel. Robby’s Law changed that. Robby was a K9 whose former handler tried to adopt him after their service ended.

The military declined the request and put the animal down. Robby’s Law deemed all K9s deemed suitable for adoption should be available for placement after retirement.

Then, in 2015, the government passed a law saying K9 troops could no longer be deemed “equipment.”

Today, K9s served the military in a variety of specialties and are a vital part of America’s defense. They are scouts, trackers and guardians. They sniff out improvised explosive devices, weapons caches or illegal narcotics or substances. They can be used to deliver supplies in the field, find downed airmen in the snow or to look for wounded soldiers on the battlefield.

This March take a moment and celebrate K9 Veterans Day.