It’s not unheard of for a war hero to return home without much of a welcome.
But to return home and face more than a year languishing in a kennel?
Such was the case with 13 of the more than 200 bomb-sniffing dogs discharged from the military after service in Afghanistan when the Army ended its Tactical Explosive Detector Dog program.
Despite its promise to find the dogs good homes — and Department of Defense policies requiring as much — the Army spent less than two months to find homes for the canines and, in the end, failed miserably.
That’s the conclusion of an investigation by the Defense Department’s Inspector General’s Office, released last week.
In return for their combat service, the U.S. Army mistreated the dogs who served between February 2011 and February 2014 detecting improvised explosive devices during Operation Enduring Freedom.
The report says the Army failed to properly vet those adopting the dogs, failed to neuter the dogs, as required, and did not accurately track them after their discharges.
In one instance, the Army signed off on allowing a family with children to adopt a dog that possibly had undergone biting training. The Army also allowed a dog with “canine PTSD” to live with another family with children, Reuters reported.
“In its haste to transfer dogs to law-enforcement agencies and to adopt other dogs out to civilians, the Army failed to vet some potential recipients,” the report said.
The Army did not always follow the recommendations of veterinarians at Fort Bragg, who screened the dogs for medical and adoption suitability, according to the report.
It allowed 13 dogs to be adopted by a private company that then abandoned them at a Virginia kennel for more than a year — until two nonprofit canine rescue organizations helped to reunite them with their military handlers.
The investigation was started in 2016 after soldiers who had handled the dogs complained about not being able to adopt them, or even determine their fate after discharge.
The Defense Department reported to Congress last year that the Army had found placements for 229 dogs in the program.
The Army says it is working to comply with the inspector general’s recommendations to better track and vet adoptions for any future military working dog programs.