For most retired military dogs, coming home after years of working in war zones can be a drastic life change. This has been the case ever since the U.S. military began enlisting dogs in the Revolutionary War era.
However, a new program could soon be helping many retired canine members of the military find a new purpose after their time in the armed forces.
According to the Associated Press, the Houston-based organization K9s4Cops, along with the AMK9 Academy, is now sending five retired military dogs to police departments across the country to help combat methamphetamine and other drugs.
“They’re getting these hero dogs that are like trained veterans coming back,” Paul Hammond, director of the Anniston, AL-based AMK9 Academy, said. The AMK9 Academy is one of the many training facilities where retired military dogs are usually sent following their service.
While most dogs who arrive at AMK9’s facility are eventually put up for adoption, K9s4Cops allows them to benefit their communities after coming home from a war zone. And since many of these dogs have already been trained to search for narcotics, the program makes perfect sense, said Mike Thomas, a K9s4Cops board member.
“If you were to look at these dogs and watch them, when they come back, they’re ready to work,” said Thomas, a Harris County, TX, sheriff’s officer. “Even if they only work for two more years, if they go out there and they take a pound of heroin off the street or 10 kilos of cocaine off the street in Houston that would have made it to Chicago or New York, and maybe save somebody from a drug habit, or they find one bomb and save 10 lives, it’s worth the whole program.”
K9s4Cops received a $25,000 grant from Westport Pharmaceuticals in St. Louis, under the condition that they would send the five dogs to areas with high meth rates. Indiana, in particular, saw 1,470 meth incidents last year, the highest in the nation.
Unfortunately, as of 2014 very few mainstream treatment options existed for people addicted to stimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine. This, combined with the relative ease with which one can acquire these illicit drugs, means that drugs like meth continue to be a pervasive issue in American society.
“No other drug is more labor-intensive for law enforcement than battling meth,” said Paul Hemings, Westport Pharmaceuticals’ U.S. general manager. “You’re not just going in and arresting the criminals. You have these labs out there that blow up, are environmental hazards, have a huge cleanup left behind.”
The dogs are set to be deployed to police departments in Indiana, Texas, Tennessee, Nebraska and Georgia in an effort to give police a vital resource they otherwise might not be able to afford. And by fighting drug-related crime, the dogs get the added benefit of having a brand-new mission to accomplish.