More Protective Gear Needed for Police, Military and Search & Rescue Dogs


In The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) article AAHA RELEASES GUIDELINES FOR WORKING, ASSISTANCE AND THERAPY DOGS (JAVMA, 259: 1383, 2022) was accompanied by a photograph with the caption “Sniper, a search and rescue dog, works on rubble.” This prompted me to immediately read the American Animal Hospital Association ( AAHA) guidelines and, as per this photo of a totally unprotected and un-collared search and rescue dog at work, I could find no reference to any protective gear being included, advocated, even recognized.

I think the AAHA should explain its position because a quick search of the internet will reveal evident U.S. manufacture, marketing and use of ear, eye, body and foot protective gear under various situations and climates, including ballistic protection vests for military and police dogs.

British army dogs have been equipped with goggles, boots and ear protectors to keep them safe while on front-line duty in harsh environment. “Each dog from the 105 Military Working Dog Squadron (MWDS) now taking part in a major military exercise in Jordan has its own body armour, ear protectors which allow them to be exposed to loud noises and eye goggles, for sand-storms and helicopter landings. They even have specially-developed dog boots, which allow them to safely walk over dangerous liquids and jagged ground - just like human soldiers.” (1.)

Derek Kaufman (2) reported: “Starline Nunley, with help from the Gem City Dog Obedience Club in Dayton, Ohio, and other sponsors, is providing protective cooling vests, goggles and doggie booties to military working dogs headed for places like Iraq and Afghanistan”. Is the situation such that the U.S. military must rely on public donations for canine protective gear and the veterinary profession has no input as to the effectiveness and risks of various equipment? Leaving all this up to the dog handlers and trainers is like leaving horse bit and bridle selection to trainers and owners which also has received little veterinary attention beyond the pioneering work of veterinarian Robert Cook (3).

As a consultant to the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps Biosensor (“Super Dog”) Research Program during the Vietnam war I was glad to see the eventual incorporation of Behavioral Medicine by the Corps in care of the military working dog. (MWD). It would seem that this sector needs to be given more support as per the statement “ Although the Behavioral Medicine Section has had a staff of up to 15 term contract employees, there has only been one permanent employee in the department since inception.33 new training programs for all junior Veterinary Corps officers and the addition of a growing number of Army behavioral care specialists to the senior ranks has steadily improved the efficiency and standard of MWD care both on and off the battlefield” (4). However, I was unable to find any reference to the veterinary evaluation and advocacy of protective gear for the MWD. I do not believe that this issue should be the sole responsibility of dog handlers and trainers involved in search and rescue, police and military services.

REFERENCES 1. (Accessed 1/22/22) 2. Kaufman D. Published July 17, 2008 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs. (Accessed 1/2/22) 3. Cook, R. (Accessed 1/2/22) 4. Beck J, Watson NA, Burghardt W, Chapter 3 MILITARY WORKING DOG PROCUREMENT, VETERINARY CARE, AND BEHAVIORAL SERVICES U.S. ARMY VETERINARY SERVICES VETERINARY CARE AND MANAGEMENT OF THE MILITARY WORKING DOGs. HEADQUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY 9 May 2019 (Accessed 1/2/22)