Author's note - First and foremost, apologies. This article was published before the FINAL text of H.R.4310 was posted on the Library of Congress website. In the final iteration of that bill the three lines providing reclassification of Military Working Dogs from "equipment" to "canine members of the Armed Forces" were deleted during debates in the Senate. Provisions for easing of adoption and veterinary remain (in Section 371), but the "official" classification of our four-legged heroes is still "equipment." So, though the background provided in the story is correct and the bill passed, the information on reclassification below is NOT accurate.
According to my sources, it was at Senator John McCain's insistence that the text be removed. Emails and calls have been placed to the Senator's office requesting comment. I await their reply.
A follow-up story will be published on this issue in the next couple of days when more facts become available and hopefully when Senator McCain's office provides a statement. The link will be posted here. Thanks for your support of Military Working Dogs and patience as I get the story straight.
This poor issue has suffered enough from misinformation and premature postings here (by yours truly) and other places such as Facebook.
Original story -
After a number of delays, relegations to subcommittees, and finally mergence into an entirely different bill, the "Canine Members of the Armed Services Act" has finally come to life. On January 2nd President Barrack Obama signed H.R.4310, the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013" into law.
A little history:
In February of 2012, Congressman Walter Jones, representing North Carolina's 3rd congressional district, introduced House Bill H.R.4103 (Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act), allowing for a reclassification of military dogs from "equipment" to "canine members of the armed forces." This bill additionally streamlined the process by which these American heroes are to be retired, adopted, and, most importantly, receive veterinary care, if necessary. All at no cost to the American taxpayer, thanks to a coalition of private agencies.
Both bills immediately found their way into subcommittee quicksand, and were thought to be lost in the backlog of a Congress mired in fiscal woes. Then in August, the text of H.R.4103 was merged into section 361 of bill H.R.4310, the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013."
The new bill, much the same as the original, became quickly lost, with even the most optimistic lawmakers projecting a vote no sooner than late spring. But, from out of nowhere, the 112th Congress dug it out of the closet, passing the bill as one of their last acts. Approved, it was sent to the President on January 2nd for his signature. Though the President expressed his displeasure for several of the provisions (see the President's statement), he signed the 680 plus page H.R.4310 into law, thus finally changing the classification of our brave canine veterans from "military equipment" to "canine members of the Armed Forces." (Sadly this did not happen)
Along with the reclassification, the bill provides provisions for the transfer of retired dogs to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, simplifies the adoption process for retired dogs, defines a system of veterinary care for retired dogs using non-federal funding, and, designates that the Secretary of Defense is directed to establish a method of honoring military dogs for exceptional service.
All without the use of federal funding.