Army Botched Adoptions of Military Working Dogs, Report Finds

FILE PHOTO -- Military working dog Marco is fed a piece of steak during his retirement ceremony at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Sept. 8, 2017. (U.S. Air ForceAirman 1st Class Stuart Bright)
FILE PHOTO -- Military working dog Marco is fed a piece of steak during his retirement ceremony at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Sept. 8, 2017. (U.S. Air ForceAirman 1st Class Stuart Bright)

The Army failed in oversight of adoptions and placements of its tactical explosive detection dogs once their work in Afghanistan ended, the Pentagon's Inspector General's office said Thursday.

The Air Force, as the agent for the Defense Department's Military Working Dog Program, also "did not provide sufficient management and oversight of the Army's plan and process to dispose of its TEDDs," the IG's report said.

As a result, adoptions of the dogs at the end of their military service "occurred without complete adoption suitability records and some families adopted TEDDs with possible aggressive or unsuitable tendencies," the report said.

"In addition, the Army did not neuter all of the male TEDDs before allowing private individuals and former handlers to adopt them," the report continued.

Some dogs went to law enforcement agencies who never used them in a security role, the report found.

In one instance, an unidentified private company adopted 13 of the TEDDs "but subsequently abandoned the dogs to a kennel," according to the report.

Both the Army and the Air Force agreed with the IG's recommendations that they have to come up with better procedures and regulations for complying with DoD's Working Dog Management System and give better guidance on "the vetting of non-military transfer and adoption applicants for Military Working Dogs."

The IG's report was in response to a request from the House Armed Services Committee to look into what happened to the dogs in the program begun by the Army in 2010 to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Afghanistan. The program ended in 2014 when the Army opted out of a contract extension that would have cost $3.5 million.

"The Army urgently required this explosive detection capability to mitigate a surge in the enemy's use of IEDs in combat," the report said. More than 200 dogs eventually served in the program.

However, the Army procured and trained the dogs by going through private contractors rather than getting them from the Air Force's 341st Training Squadron, which is authorized to supply working dogs to the services and other DoD components, the report said.

In August 2016, DoD reported to Congress that the Army had disposed of 229 TEDDs. Of these, the Air Force reported that the Army had transferred 70 to Army units; provided 40 for adoption by handlers; transferred 17 to federal agencies; transferred 46 to federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies; and provided 47 to private individuals for adoption. Nine of the dogs were reported deceased.

However, the IG's report said that there were actually 232 TEDDs. The three additional dogs were listed in an Army spreadsheet but "we were unable to learn whether the additional dogs were transferred or adopted," the report said.

The Army's management of the working dog program contrasted with a similar capability adopted by the Marine Corps in 2008 within the Improvised Explosive Device Detection Dog (IDD) program.

The IG's report said that Marine Corps developed detailed procedures and coordinated training plans and funding estimates with the 341st Training Squadron.

The Marines' program involved more than 600 dogs before it ended in 2011. Between 2011-2014, the dogs were transferred out and the Marines' "deliberate disposition planning allowed time to explain the plan to concerned stakeholders, and provided time to review and consider adoption applications and mitigate handler and civilian adoption issues," the report said.

In 2000, Congress enacted a statute to allow for the adoption of military dogs and "ended the practice of euthanizing the dogs at the end of their useful working life," the report said.

The IG’s office told Military.com that none of the dogs in the Army’s program was euthanized after it ended.

In a 2016 report to Congress, however, the Air Force noted shortcomings in the policy allowing the dogs' military handlers to adopt them.

The service found breakdowns in the system for notifying handlers when their former working dogs became available for adoption, resulting in possible missed adoption opportunities.

"From 2000 until 2015, the DoD did not have an established priority for applicants for adoption of MWDs, and no adoption priorities for former MWD handlers," the report concluded.

Since then, Congress has recommended "former handlers of MWDs as first priority for MWD adoption," the report said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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