Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dogs Don't Belong in War

No one wants to see any American soldier wounded or killed in war, but purposely breeding dogs to shield soldiers, and deflect casualties and fatalities in wars of human making and ignorance, is wrong and should be stopped immediately.

The use of dogs in the military is not new; however, since the War in Afghanistan, the number of dogs trained to fight alongside American soldiers has grown as dog training facilities see a need and a means to make money exploiting man’s best friend.

Dogs trained in combat are primarily used for detecting IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices), but they are also utilized for other dangerous activities like detecting mines and tracking down enemy fighters and bomb-makers. Across all branches of the military, more than 50 military dogs have been killed since 2005. In fact, they are so effective that enemies will often target them first. 

In a recent interview on 60 Minutes, Mike Ritland, a former Navy Seal veteran, discussed his founding of Trikos International, an intensive dog training company that prepares dogs for war, among other uses. He breeds dogs and from birth, raises them to fight, exposing them to loud noises and other stimuli that mimic combat so they never lose sight of their given “purpose.” His company sells dogs for all kinds of protection; personal, military, police, but if you’re “not sure how the dog will fit into your lifestyle,” as his website states, he also offers a lease option. No, we’re not talking about a gun or an alarm system, but a living, feeling being for “lease.” I’m sure Mr. Ritland makes a handsome living off these dogs.

There are more than 500 dogs currently deployed in Afghanistan. These dogs are often called “working” dogs despite the fact that they don’t earn a paycheck, are made to fight, and are only “retired” after they are severely injured—that is if they aren’t killed first. One of Mr. Ritland’s dogs, now “retired” at Trikos, was given his "leave" only after being shot point blank in the chest.

With increased exposure to explosions, gunfire and other violence, combat dogs are now exhibiting the same symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that affects their human counterparts. Symptoms include hyper-vigilance, avoidance and behavioral changes—becoming either unusually aggressive, or clingy and timid. Some dogs hide and don't want to come out and startle at loud noises. And they get hurt just like the soldiers they’re trying to protect; the only difference is that the military has no active veterinarians on duty ready to assist these faithful animals, so consultations with vets are done by phone, email or Skype—hardly the kind of care worthy of such a dedicated and selfless animal.

During the said 60 Minutes interview, another soldier, who lost his legs to an IED despite his dog’s repeated warnings, was asked if he thought what he is doing, essentially putting his dog in danger, is unfair to the dog. He uncomfortably answered that it’s better than sending in a soldier who may get killed. In other words, the dogs are expendable.

The reason we have wars will one day have to be answered for by humans. Dogs were not created to be manipulated by us to fight our battles and crimes. While their senses may be more acute than ours, this does not give us the right to subject them to the horrors of combat, violence, and trauma, no matter how effective and useful they may be. No War Dog Memorial can erase the fact that we misuse these dogs for our own personal gain and misguided foreign policies. 

What Mr. Ritland and others are doing is taking the best qualities in dogs: their loyalty, fierce protectiveness, and willingness to serve their guardians—the very people who are suppose to look out for them and protect them—and turning these attributes against them by making them risk their own lives for our foolish and criminal activities. This is, in itself, a crime.

Sadly, there are few animal advocacy organizations willing to address this polemical abuse, yet there are many war organizations promoting the victimization of dogs in war. 

We have an ethical and moral obligation to do what is right by animals and keep them out of harm's way. People make wars, fight wars, and often die in them. This is something that we do all too well and that we should finish—alone. Leave the dogs out of it.


Humans have made these creatures [dogs] dependent on us. 
How terrible it is, therefore, that we are so seldom dependable. 
—Christina Schwarz


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dogs have been bread for war since the beginning of humanities discovery of animals' power as a weapon. It is hard to think of it as alright because we domesticate them now as pets and that is the image recalled when we see a photo like this. It's not that they are meat shields they are equal to humans on the battlefield. remember soldiers are humans too and these dogs are part of the battle under their handler's (owner's) care. All of these handler's want these dogs to stay alive because they have trained them since they were pups and have grown attachments to their animals.dogs are used to chase down a target, locate a bomb or soldier under rubble, and sometimes even drag soldiers back into cover when wounded. They aren't meat shields, they are soldiers.

Bethany Cortale said...

Anonymous: But dogs are not soldiers; they are dogs! Dogs exist for their own reasons, not for what you think they should be. Just because humans have found a way to manipulate dogs over the centuries to fight our wars does not make it right. They are exploited in the interest of protecting humans and human causes. I believe it is abusive, as well as morally and ethically wrong, regardless of how you want to spin it and justify it. Open your mind to see dogs and other animals as the autonomous beings that they are. You're stuck in traditional anthropocentric ways of thinking. Did you even read my article?