Service Animals

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Date: 2016
Animal Rights
From: Animal Rights(2015 ed.)
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
Series: Information Plus Reference Series
Document Type: Topic overview
Pages: 9
Content Level: (Level 4)

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Service Animals

Service animals are those that work for humans doing particular tasks. These tasks may be as mundane as pulling plows or as sophisticated as finding underwater mines. Throughout history animals have helped humans hunt wildlife, herd livestock, guard people and property, and wage warfare. Animals are also trained for more humanitarian causes, such as rescuing the lost and providing aid and comfort to people with certain physical and psychological needs.

Whatever the task may be, the common factor is that service animals help humans with their needs and desires. Some people see this as a clever use of resources and a mutually beneficial bond, but others see it as a form of slavery. Some animal rights activists, including the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), believe humans should not use animals for any purpose. They rarely speak out against uses that the public views as benevolent. However, they do criticize commercial uses of service animals (e.g., pulling carriages), and they are extremely critical of military uses of animals because the animals are exposed to great danger. This is also true for animals doing some police and rescue jobs.

Like animal rights activists, welfarists are concerned that service animals are trained and treated with care. Animal groups recommend that only positive reinforcement be used when service animals are trained. They also point out that service animals should be carefully screened to ensure they are good matches with their potential human partners. Finally, they remind people that the needs of service animals must be considered along with the needs of the people being served. In general, however, welfarists support programs that train service animals because so many of these programs rescue homeless animals from shelters.


The role of service animals in agriculture, hunting, transportation, and warfare changed little over thousands of years. In the United States service animals continued in their traditional roles until the late 1800s. Then the urbanization and innovations of the Industrial Revolution slowly eliminated the need for many of them. Motorized vehicles took over nearly all the work formerly done by horses and beasts of burden in agriculture, transportation, and warfare. Over the next century many people turned to chemicals instead of cats to kill rodents and to electronics instead of dogs to guard their property. Some vital tasks previously performed by service animals have become recreational activities—for example, hunting and herding with dogs and using horses to pull carriages. However, the use of animals (particularly dogs) in military and public service continues to grow. In addition, animals serve as aides and provide companionship and therapy to people with specific physical and mental needs.



Falconry is a form of hunting that is conducted with the use of trained birds of prey, such as eagles, falcons, hawks, or owls. (See Figure 8.1 .) These birds are also called raptors. Falconry has strict licensing requirements because it uses wild birds that are protected species. Animals that are commonly hunted using falconry are pigeons, quail, rabbits, squirrels, and waterfowl. The North American Falconers Association notes in “A Brief History of Falconry in North America”(2015, ) that it had nearly 2,000 members as of 2015.


Dogs have historically been used in hunting. In the United States dogs are used to hunt upland game birds and waterfowl, such as ducks, partridge, pheasant, pigeons, and quail. Dogs are also used to hunt bears, foxes, mountain lions, raccoons, squirrels, and other prey. The primary dog breeds used in hunting are beagles, griffons, hounds, pointers, retrievers, setters, and spaniels. Dogs that hunt mostly by Page 130  |  Top of Articlescent are called scent hounds, and dogs that hunt mostly by sight are called sight hounds. Hunting dogs perform a variety of tasks, including tracking prey, pointing prey out to the hunter, and retrieving downed prey after it is shot.

FIGURE 8.1 Falconry is a form of hunting accomplished using trained birds of prey.

FIGURE 8.1 Falconry is a form of hunting accomplished using trained birds of prey.
©Jeffrey B. Banke/

One particularly controversial form of hunting that is conducted with the help of dogs and horses is fox-hunting. Hunters on horseback pursue foxes across the countryside using packs of hounds. Although foxhunting was practiced in the United Kingdom for hundreds of years, animal welfare groups had been trying to get it outlawed since the 1940s because they considered it cruel to the foxes. In 2002 Scotland passed a bill outlawing mounted hunting with dogs. After much political maneuvering, a similar bill was passed in England and Wales that went into effect in 2005. The debate over the bill in the United Kingdom was generally divided between social classes, with upper-class landowners opposing it. Foxhunting has traditionally been a pastime of the wealthy in the United Kingdom, including members of the royal family.

According to the Masters of Foxhounds Association and Foundation, in “About Foxhunting”(, there were 156 recognized foxhunting clubs in North America in 2015. This number has reportedly grown over the last decade as foxhunting becomes more popular in the United States.


Guard duty encompasses several tasks that are performed by animals. One is to alert humans to danger. Another is to provide physical protection from danger. Many animals can provide alerts but not protection. For example, canaries were once used in mines to warn miners that dangerous gases were present. Because canaries are sensitive to small dosages of these gases, their deaths gave the miners time to leave dangerous areas before they, too, were overcome. This was not a trained or voluntary response by the canaries. By contrast, dogs can alert people to an approaching predator and defend them against it.

Dogs are still the most popular type of guarding animals. Besides their traditional guard duties, dogs are increasingly used to warn humans about impending natural phenomena, such as earthquakes. For years, researchers have been studying claims that dogs can somehow sense when an earthquake is about to happen. The speculation is that dogs may hear rumbling noises or sense vibrations occurring deep within the earth that precede actual ground movement.

Guarding Livestock

Historically, the best guards for livestock (cows, sheep, goats, and so on) have been dogs. Guard dogs protect livestock from common predators, such as coyotes, mountain lions, bears, and wild dogs. This is one job that dogs continue to do regularly. The guard dogs do not herd the livestock and have been bred not to chase or hurt them.

Other animals are also used to guard livestock. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) notes in “Humane, Effective Predator Control”(September 15, 2010, ) that donkeys, burros, and llamas can effectively protect flocks of sheep or goats. These guard animals are naturally aggressive toward canines, such as coyotes, wolves, and wild dogs. In “Guard Llamas Keep Sheep Safe from Coyotes” ( , June 10, 2003), Cameron Walker reports that llamas that spot a predator near their sheep will strike defensive postures, sound alarm cries, and run toward the predator while kicking at the air. Sheep farmers in western states have found that llamas are even more effective guards than dogs. Llamas, burros, and donkeys also live longer than guard dogs.

Chickens, particularly those allowed to free range, face dangers from terrestrial predators, such as coyotes, Page 131  |  Top of Articleand from aerial predators, such as hawks and owls. Although specially trained dogs can be used to guard chicken flocks, other choices include guineas, peacocks, geese, and turkeys. These larger birds are intermingled with the chicken flock to deter predators by their size and by their tendency to make lots of noise when threatened.

Guarding Territory and People

Dogs are the most popular animal used for guarding territory and people. This job requires large breeds that are strong, protective, and territorial. The breeds most often used for this work are chows, Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, komondors, and rottweilers.

Guard dogs are not the same as watchdogs. Watchdogs bark when a stranger approaches them or their territory. Even small dogs, such as Chihuahuas, can make good watchdogs. In contrast, guard dogs are intended to scare away and even attack intruders. Security companies use many guard dogs. They work with handlers and human guards to patrol sites or protect individuals. Other guard dogs work without human accompaniment. They are placed on commercial and industrial properties, such as junkyards, at night.

Animal groups are highly critical of the use of unaccompanied guard dogs at commercial and industrial sites. They claim these working dogs are given a minimum amount of food, water, and veterinary care, are kept in isolation in dangerous environments, and are treated cruelly to instill aggressive behavior.


Manual labor is work that requires physical skill and energy. In the United States mechanized equipment has replaced most of the work done by beasts of burden. Draft horses and mules are still used by a few farmers, particularly those in communities that use traditional farming techniques, such as the Amish. In addition, nearly all developing countries rely heavily on draft animals for agricultural work. (See Figure 8.2 .)

In the United States some tasks historically performed by animals have become activities of leisure. For example, entrepreneurs in many large cities offer carriage rides to tourists. Animal groups are critical of these ventures, saying that carriage horses are forced to work under hazardous conditions on city streets crowded with traffic and often do not receive proper housing and care.

FIGURE 8.2 Plowing oxen.

FIGURE 8.2 Plowing oxen.

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PETA actively advocates against horse-drawn carriages and stagecoaches. In the fact sheet Incidents Involving Horse-Drawn Carriages (March 2015, ), the organization maintains a list of more than 200 accidents and other troubling incidents that have occurred since the mid-1980s involving horse-drawn carriages. For example, PETA describes an accident that occurred in December 2014 in Dallas, Texas, in which a carriage horse and two passengers were injured after the horse “was spooked by a horn.” According to PETA, in “The Cruelty of Horse-Drawn Carriages”(2015, ), horse-drawn carriages have been banned in Biloxi, Mississippi, Camden, New Jersey, and several Florida jurisdictions.


Law enforcement agencies throughout the world use animals (mostly dogs and horses) to help them perform security work. Dogs are, by far, the most common animals used.


Many dogs are used by U.S. law enforcement agencies at the local and national levels to perform important tasks. These agencies include police and sheriff's departments, arson investigators, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Table 8.1 is a list compiled by the FBI that describes why dogs are so useful in law enforcement work. Dogs can be specially trained to work with officers during searches and arrests and to sniff out illegal substances. Dogs have incredibly sensitive noses and can smell tiny quantities of substances and distinguish particular scents with amazing accuracy. This natural ability has proven to be an extremely useful tool in law enforcement applications. In addition, drugsniffing dogs are sometimes used in schools.

Many fire departments use dogs as part of their arson investigation teams. Arson dogs are specially trained to sniff for the presence of accelerants, such as gasoline, at sites where arson is suspected. Because of their incredible sense of smell, arson dogs can detect tiny amounts of accelerants lingering on surfaces inside buildings and vehicles or on people's clothes. The dogs indicate a find by either sitting or attempting to gain eye contact with their handlers. Because arsonists often hang around the scene of the crime, arson dogs are discreetly led through the crowds of people who gather to watch fires to sniff for the presence of accelerants on people's clothing or belongings. Any suspicious finds are subjected to detailed laboratory testing.

TABLE 8.1 Facts about search and rescue dogs

TABLE 8.1 Facts about search and rescue dogs
Adapted from “Did You Know?” in About Our Dogs, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2015, (accessed March 5, 2015)

Federal agencies that guard U.S. borders have used dogs since the 1970s. In 1970 the U.S. Customs Service began using dogs to sniff out narcotics that were being smuggled into the country at major border crossings. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service also used dogs to help intercept illegal aliens and prevent smuggling. In 2003 these agencies were grouped together into the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The canine resources of the individual agencies were combined into a new agency called the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In “Canine Program”(2015, ), the CBP notes that its canine program includes more than 1,500 dog teams, making it “the largest and most diverse law enforcement canine program in the country.”

Law enforcement duties do pose special dangers for working dogs. According to the nonprofit organization Officers Down Memorial Page (2015, ), hundreds of law enforcement dogs (commonly called K9s) have died in the line of duty. For example, a K9 named Barney died in March 2015 in Tacoma, Washington, after ingesting some illegal drugs he discovered during a police search at a storage unit. Animal welfare groups, such as the HSUS, do not actively campaign against the use of dogs in law enforcement. In “Issues”(2015, ), the HSUS does not list law enforcement dogs as one of its focus areas. The animal rights group PETA also shies away from the subject. However, PETA and other animal groups have urged law enforcement officers to take more precautions to safeguard K9s from danger including accidental hazards. For example, in 2013 a K9 in Georgia died after his handler accidentally left him unattended in a police car during hot weather.


Horses have been used in law enforcement work for centuries. They were the fastest and surest form of Page 133  |  Top of Articletransportation for officers for many years. Even after cars became common, many law enforcement agencies continued to use mounted patrols. Mounted units are popular in both rural and metropolitan areas. For example, the United Mounted Peace Officers of Texas (2015, ) indicates that in 2015 Texas authorities used 102 mounted units for patrols throughout the state. They are particularly useful in backcountry areas on dirt roads and rugged terrain. Several large U.S. police departments, including the New York City Police Department, use mounted patrols for crowd control and to provide greater visibility of officers on the streets.

Mounted units are not without controversy, however. There have been injuries to horses, police, and members of the public. Because mounted units often perform crowd control during protests and demonstrations, the horses and their riders are exposed to people who may be angry and confrontational. There are reports of police horses being pelted with rocks and garbage. Protesters claim that police have charged their horses into crowds, knocking over and injuring people. Walking for many hours on city streets under stressful conditions is not easy on the horses. A few instances are reported each year of police horses throwing off or kicking their riders.


Search and rescue (SAR) and body recovery work are performed by a variety of public service agencies in conjunction with private organizations. Some SAR units use dogs to help find missing humans, rescue people in danger, and recover bodies after disasters strike. Animals that assist in SAR work are generally considered valuable and noble by modern societies.

One of the most remarkable displays of SAR dogs in action occurred after the September 11, 2001 (9/11), terrorist attacks. More than 350 dogs scoured the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York City, along with their human trainers, looking for survivors and corpses. These dogs were from all over the United States and from foreign countries. The work was difficult. SAR dogs suffered from paw cuts and burns, dehydration, burning eyes, and psychological stress. Some handlers reported their dogs became depressed after not finding any live victims and could not eat or sleep normally. Campaigns were held to collect booties and other items needed by the SAR dogs who participated in helping during the 9/11 aftermath, and donations poured in from around the world.

In subsequent years there were reports of sicknesses developing in the human rescuers who were involved in the 9/11 effort. However, Cynthia M. Otto et al. note in “Medical and Behavioral Surveillance of Dogs Deployed to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon from October 2001 to June 2002”(Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, vol. 225, no. 6, September 15, 2004) that SAR dogs were found to have suffered no lasting side effects from their participation.

There are multiple nonprofit organizations that support SAR dogs and their handlers. Examples include Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, the American Rescue Dog Association, and the National Association for Search and Rescue. These organizations typically offer educational and training sessions and conduct certification programs for SAR teams.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operates the national Urban Search and Rescue Program. In “About Urban Search and Rescue”(July 24, 2014, ), FEMA notes that the program includes 28 task forces scattered across the country that respond to natural disasters and other catastrophic incidents. SAR teams play a crucial role in these efforts. The agency describes in “Canine's Role in Urban Search and Rescue”(February 18, 2015, ) the comprehensive certification program that the dogs and their handlers must pass to participate. Most of the certified SAR dogs in the program are Belgian Malinois (a variety of Belgian shepherd), border collies, German shepherds, golden retrievers, and Labrador retrievers.


Since World War II (1939–1945) trained dogs have been used in military applications to detect land mines on the battlefield. In 1988 the United Nations called on the international community to devote resources to humanitarian demining (detecting and removing land mines left over from many civil and regional conflicts throughout the world). Governments, nongovernmental organizations, and commercial enterprises have collaborated to tackle the problem, but millions of land mines are believed to remain in the ground in dozens of countries.

According to the Marshall Legacy Institute (2015, ), more than 900 dogs are used in humanitarian demining operations throughout the world. The dogs' excellent sense of smell is particularly effective for detecting land mines made of nonmetal components. These mines are not detectable using metal-detecting equipment.

During the early 1990s, the Belgian-born product designer Bart Weetjens (1967–) seized on the idea of training rats to detect underground land mines. He began the nongovernmental organization Anti-persoonsmijnen Ontmijnende Product Ontwikkeling (APOPO; Anti-personnel Mines Demining Product Development). The APOPO collects Gambian giant pouched rats from Africa and trains them to detect land mines while wearing harnesses that are controlled by human handlers.

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FIGURE 8.3 A service dog assisting a disabled person

FIGURE 8.3 A service dog assisting a disabled person
“Service animals provide many types of assistance for people with disabilities,” in ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, March 2011, (accessed March 5, 2015)


Animals that provide for the physical and mental well-being of humans are perhaps the most admired of all service animals. They guide, aid, assist, and comfort people with all kinds of physical and mental disabilities, impairments, and problems. (See Figure 8.3 .)

Historically, dogs have been the most widely used animal species to provide medical services to humans. For example, it is believed that dogs have been used to help guide blind people for hundreds of years. Intensive training of dogs for such purposes began during World War I (1914–1918) to aid blind veterans. Since that time many other types of animals have been trained to assist humans with physical and mental problems.

Aiding the Physically Impaired

Some people who are troubled with physical impairments rely on trained animals to improve their quality of life. These animals typically assist humans who are blind or visually impaired, deaf or hearing impaired, or have other physical disabilities.

HELP FOR THE BLIND OR VISUALLY IMPAIRED. As noted earlier, guide dogs have long been trained to assist blind people. Figure 8.4 shows a guide dog at work. According to The Seeing Eye (2015, ), guide dogs for the blind typically work for seven years and are then adopted as pets by their owners or other people.

Guide Dog Users Inc. (GDUI) is an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. The organization reports growing problems with aggressive dogs attacking guide dogs while walking on city streets. It wants state laws enacted that will protect blind people and their guide dogs from any harassment or obstruction. The GDUI estimates that it costs up to $60,000 to properly train a guide dog team.

Miniature horses are increasingly being used as service animals for blind and visually impaired people. According to the Guide Horse Foundation, in “Frequently Asked Miniature Horse Questions”(2015, ), the most suitable guide horses stand less than 26 inches (66 cm) high. The organization notes that guide horses offer several advantages over dogs, including longer life spans. The average miniature horse can live for 25 to 30 years, which is much longer than the average life span of a dog.

HELP FOR THE DEAF OR HEARING IMPAIRED. Hearing animals are specially trained to alert their deaf or hard-ofhearing owners to particular noises, such as a doorbell, knock at the door, oven timer, crying baby, alarm clock, or smoke alarm. When the animals hear these noises, they make physical contact with their owners and lead them to the source of the noise.

HELP FOR OTHER PHYSICAL CONDITIONS. Service animals, primarily dogs and monkeys, do a variety of tasks for people with debilitating conditions, such as epilepsy, lameness, paralysis, or Parkinson's disease. The animals are trained to pick up dropped items, fetch objects (such as a phone), open and close doors, turn light switches on and off, and perform other tasks as needed. Although dogs were first trained to do these tasks, Capuchin monkeys are becoming increasingly popular. These small primates are friendly, clever, and can live for up to 30 years. Helping Hands (2015, ), a nonprofit organization that trains Capuchin monkeys to provide assistance services, notes the animals have “dexterous hands and amazing fine motor skills.

Trained service dogs can pull wheelchairs and assist people who are unsteady on their feet by providing a means of support and balance. Some service dogs are trained to summon help if their human partner needs it.

The United Kingdom organization Medical Detection Dogs (2015, ) notes that it trains dogs to assist humans with various medical conditions, including “Addisonian crisis which causes severe pain, convulsions and unconsciousness; pain seizures which lead to collapse and hospitalisation; severe allergic responses, and narcolepsy, a malfunction of the sleep/wake regulating system which causes sleep attacks and paralysis.”

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FIGURE 8.4 A trained Seeing Eye dog.

FIGURE 8.4 A trained Seeing Eye dog.
© Boris Djuranovic/

Seizure alert dogs are trained to identify signs—generally undetectable to humans—that their human companion is going to have a seizure. Some dogs have demonstrated an ability to predict when a person is going to have a seizure up to an hour before it happens. Scientists do not understand how these dogs know when a person is going to have a seizure, but some speculate that the dogs may be aware of certain physical or behavioral changes such as dilated pupils or slight changes in skin color or facial expressions that occur. The dog may be trained to remain with the person throughout the seizure, sometimes lying on top of the person to steady him or her and prevent injury, and helping him or her up afterward.

NOT WITHOUT CONTROVERSY. One controversial issue associated with service dogs is the use of breeding programs to produce them. Many organizations and training schools rescue dogs from pounds and animal shelters. This provides good homes for dogs that might otherwise be euthanized. Animal welfarists are critical of schools that breed their own dogs because there are already so many unwanted dogs in the country.

Mental and Physical Therapy

Another medical service that animals provide is therapeutic rather than utilitarian. Therapy animals provide emotional support or assist in rehabilitation activities. For example, therapy animals can comfort people undergoing psychological counseling. Hippotherapy (therapy involving interacting and sitting or riding on horses) is another popular option. The American Hippotherapy Association (2015, ) advocates the use of horses in physical, occupational, and language therapy programs.

Many organizations working with abused children use therapy dogs in their programs. Petting and hugging the dogs relaxes the children and allows them to open up to counselors. Similar programs are used to calm children suffering from autism and patients undergoing various types of therapy. Some nursing and retirement homes and other facilities for the elderly or infirm rely on visiting or in-house animals, such as birds, cats, or dogs, to provide comfort and companionship to their human inhabitants. Therapy animals also visit hospitals to cheer people who may be lonely or depressed. Only gentle and social animals with good dispositions are used in this type of work.

Dogs are even used in medical detection, thanks to their extremely keen sense of smell. Dermatologists report stories about patients whose dogs sniffed at moles on their owners' bodies. The moles turned out to be cancerous and Page 136  |  Top of Articlewere removed. Doctors speculate that dogs may be able to smell some unique scent that is emitted by cancerous skin cells. Dogs have also been tested for their ability to detect by smell the presence of cancerous cells in the urine or breath of cancer patients. It is believed that the dogs are able to detect trace amounts of chemicals not ordinarily emitted by healthy people. This finding could help scientists develop electronic sniffers capable of detecting cancerous cells. The National Institutes of Health maintains a database ( ) of millions of citations for biomedical articles and reports. As of April 2015, a search with the term sniffer dogs returned 16 articles written by scientists on this emerging area of research.


Of all the service animals in use, animals used by the military are the most controversial. To animal welfarists and animal rights activists, the use of animals by the military can be extremely disturbing. These animals are often put into tremendous danger, and many of them die during their service. On the contrary, members of the military say service animals have saved many human lives in battle. They argue that animal deaths in war are regrettable but permissible if human lives are saved. Animal rights activists and welfarists argue that animals involved in warfare do not know what they are fighting for or against and have poor chances of surviving.


According to Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, in “Wild Horses: An American Romance”(2015, ), most of the 6 million horses that served the U.S. military during World War I were killed. The deaths of millions of other horses in military service to other countries severely depleted the world's horse population. World War I was the last war in which horses played a major role in combat. By 1942 all U.S. cavalry units were disbanded or mechanized.

Coincidentally, this was the same year that dogs were first officially inducted into the U.S. Army. A group called Dogs for Defense asked Americans to donate dogs to the army. Dogs were trained for guard and police duty, to pull sleds, to carry packs and messages, to help reconnaissance patrols find hidden enemy soldiers, and to help the medical corps find and rescue wounded soldiers.

Following World War II the surviving dogs were returned to their owners. This was not the case in later wars. Military officials were afraid of a trained military dog attacking someone in civilian life. It became common practice to euthanize unusable and retired war dogs or to leave them behind on the battlefield. Animal welfarists and soldiers were strongly against this policy, particularly after the Vietnam War (1954–1975).

Military historians estimate that war dogs saved thousands of U.S. soldiers from death or injury during the Vietnam War. Approximately 4,000 service dogs guarded troops, alerted them to booby traps, and pulled the wounded to safety. The U.S. War Dog Association (2015, ) lists the names of 230 dogs that it says were killed in action during the war. Most of the service dogs that survived the war were left behind in Vietnam when U.S. troops pulled out. The fate of these dogs is unknown. Many veterans groups, including the Vietnam Dog Handler Association, are lobbying for a national memorial to be built in the District of Columbia to honor the service of war dogs.

In 2000 President Bill Clinton (1946–) signed a law that allowed retired military dogs to be adopted rather than euthanized. The new owners have to agree not to hold the government responsible for any injuries or damages that may be caused by the former military dogs. Because of their extensive training, the dogs are sought after for law enforcement and rescue work. In 2005 President George W. Bush (1946–) signed legislation that allowed the military to adopt out active-duty military dogs to their handlers under certain circumstances.

The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Although some animal work is classified, it is known that the U.S. military has used beluga whales, chickens, dogs, dolphins, horses, pigeons, sea lions, and other marine mammals during combat. Besides horses, many of these animals are still used in modern warfare.

Hundreds of animals were used by the U.S. military during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, including chickens, dogs, dolphins, and pigeons. Some animal welfare and rights groups spoke against using animals for military purposes; however, the focus was largely on improving the animals' chances for survival. For example, after the Iraq war began, the HSUS donated funds to buy cooling vests for military dogs that served in the hot climate.

Dogs have also proved particularly useful at helping military personnel find improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are basically homemade bombs that are often placed beside or buried under roadways used by U.S. troops. IEDs were responsible for numerous U.S. military deaths and injuries during the war in Iraq (which ended in 2011) and the continuing war in Afghanistan. According to Sharon Weinberger, in “Upgrading the Dogs of War”( , August 31, 2012), a U.S. Navy program begun in 2011 specially trains dogs to detect explosive chemicals, such as ammonium nitrate, so that they can alert their handlers in the field to the presence of IEDs.

Weinberger notes that as of August 2012 an estimated 600 military dogs were deployed with U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In “Afghanistan: Dogs of War” ( , June 3, 2014), Alan Taylor reports that thousands of Page 137  |  Top of Articlemilitary dogs have served in Afghanistan with the armed forces that make up the coalition fighting against the Taliban.

U.S. military dogs are trained at the Military Working Dog Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The most common breeds used are Belgian Malinois, Dutch shepherds, and German shepherds. The military conducts its own breeding program and purchases suitable dogs from other breeders. Most dogs have a military career of about 10 years and are then retired from the service.

MARINE MAMMALS. Frontline reports on the U.S. Navy's historical use of dolphins and other marine mammals in A Whale of a Business (November 1997, ). The navy began its Marine Mammal Program in 1960. Marine mammals were trained to perform tasks such as filming objects underwater, retrieving and delivering equipment, and guarding vessels against enemy divers. They were used during the Vietnam War and later in the Persian Gulf during the 1980s.

Dolphins are trained to detect enemy divers and attach restraining devices to them so they can be apprehended by human handlers. These devices include a line with a buoy that floats to the surface. Sea lions are trained to actually pursue any fleeing divers who go ashore. Mine-hunting dolphins identify and mark underwater mines so that they can be decommissioned or later exploded safely. In 2007 the navy announced plans to use dolphins and sea lions to patrol the waters off a naval base near Seattle, Washington. The marine animals are trained to detect and catch potential terrorists attacking from the water.

However, in late 2012 animal groups expressed relief when the U.S. military announced plans to replace many of its marine mammal “soldiers” with robotic devices. In “Robots Replace Costly US Navy MineClearance Dolphins”( , November 8, 2012), Weinberger reports the change is being driven by the high costs associated with mammal use and the advent of advanced robotic technologies. The navy plans to make the transition by 2017. At that time its Sea Mammal Program will be largely phased out, and the service will rely on “a new generation of robotic mine hunters.” These devices include the Knifefish, a sonar-equipped underwater robot that is still in development. However, Weinberger warns that “the Navy already admits there may still be some specialised missions where sea mammals are needed past 2017.”

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3628400014