Mon, Nov 05, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Veterinarian leads push for better life for war dogs

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Feeling dismayed about the way retired war dogs are treated in the military, a veterinarian has launched a campaign with animal rights advocates to promote the adoption the dogs.

A veterinarian by profession, Kung Chien-chia (龔建嘉), who served in a unit that takes care of war dogs during his compulsory military service, was shocked to see the poor living conditions of the highly trained dogs.

“There are a total of 24 war dogs, including 18 that are still in active service, and six that have reached the age of eight and retired,” Kung said in a blog post. “They live in an old building built more than 40 years ago that is humid and dark inside, and their cages are made of wooden planks, steel wires, and concrete — this is what they call ‘home’ for their entire lives.”

Kung said he was constantly worried that the dog houses would flood during typhoons, that snakes would get into the cages, or that dogs who got sick would not be treated due to lack of funding.

Kung said he then thought of a way to save the dogs, especially the retired ones, and starting working on having them adopted.

He found people who wanted to adopt the dogs and went to his superiors with the adoption plan, but was turned down.

“The worst of it is that the dogs have to stay there their entire lives, even after they retire, because war dogs, like guns or other equipment, are military property and so cannot be taken outside,” Kung said.

Kung’s efforts drew the attention of the Life Conservationist Association (LCA) and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴).

“It’s actually quite shocking for me to learn how the military treats war dogs,” LCA secretariat director Lin Yi-shan (林憶珊) said. “We urge the Ministry of National Defense to increase the budget for war dogs, improve living conditions for ones on active duty and allow retired war dogs to be adopted.”

Lin said the annual budget for the 24 war dogs — including costs for food, medical needs and facility maintenance — is NT$500,000, which is not sufficient.

“As for adoption, I don’t understand why sniffer dogs can be adopted after they retire and war dogs cannot,” Lin said.

Hsiao proposed a resolution in the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee last month asking the ministry to improve living conditions for war dogs and to allow for their adoption.

The motion was unanimously passed and the ministry responded by proposing a plan to repair the dog houses by the end of the year.

However, the ministry said it needs to look further into the issue of adoption before it makes a decision on the matter.

“Government agencies should be extra cautious when it comes to dealing with animals,” Hsiao said. “The ministry should pay more attention to war dogs, even after they retire. They should not run around in military camps like strays.”

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