Army killing terrorist-hunting hero dogs for being ‘worn out’ or ‘too dangerous’
A serving member of the SAS has called for better treatment of combat dogs after figures showed almost 1,200 have been put down by the military.
The special forces soldier told the Daily Star Sunday that more should be done to prevent the dogs of war being destroyed once they have outlived their military usefulness.
The soldier – a sergeant and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan – is one of several trained dog handlers serving in the SAS and SBS.
The animals have been used to hunt down terrorists and retrieve injured troops from the battlefield. Usually selected from malinois – a breed of Belgian shepherd – they accompany troops on most missions, and have been responsible for saving the lives of British servicemen.
A series of Freedom of Information requests we made revealed that, since 2002, up to 1,200 dogs have been put down by military vets.
Many were deemed to be too dangerous to rehome. Some were killed because they were classed as being “old and worn out”, according to Ministry of Defence documents. Others were physically fit but were destroyed for “failing to maintain standards” and “welfare reasons”.
The soldier said: “These animals have saved the lives of a lot of soldiers and it seems absolutely tragic that they are being destroyed at the end of their working lives.
“Not all dogs can be saved, some are too dangerous. But I believe a lot more could be kept alive.”
Military dogs have saved many lives in Afghanistan. Their bravery is recognised by the Dickin Medal, the animal version of the Victoria Cross. Recipients include labradors Sadie, who spotted a Taliban bomb in 2005, and Treo, who in 2008 found several roadside bombs.
Another was Theo, a springer spaniel who found 114 bombs and weapons caches. Tragically, Theo died from a seizure shortly after his handler Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was shot dead in 2011.
MoD figures show that more than 807 dogs were put down by Army vets between 2002 and 2012. A further 380 were killed between 2013 and 2019. Separate figures show up to 85 service horses have been destroyed since 2013.
Animal welfare charity the Dogs Trust said: “We are opposed to the premature euthanasia of working dogs when retired or no longer able to perform their duties.”
An Army spokesman said: “A Military Working Dog is only euthanised if it poses a risk to public safety or has a medical condition causing unnecessary suffering and only after a full assessment by military veterinarians and dog behaviourists.
“These dogs provide an invaluable service to our troops and every effort is made to rehome them at the end of their service life.”
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