UK

Military Dog Deaths Slammed By Animal Welfare Groups

19/09/2013 12:31 BST | Updated 19/09/2013 12:48 BST

Animal welfare experts have responded furiously to the news that hundreds of military dogs have been put down by the Ministry of Defence in the past three years, arguing the animals are not simply "kit that can be decommissioned."

Some 288 dogs were put down by the MoD from January 2010 to June this year, according to The Sun, with animal rights campaigners blasting the deaths of the brave creatures.

Among the animals put down, 81 were because of age, 61 due to osteoarthritis and 33 were related to dangerous temperament.

Today, angry animal lovers took to Twitter to voice their outrage.

The approach contrasts drastically to that of the Met Police, who claim they never kill healthy dogs once they are retired.

The Dogs Trust charity said dogs "are not pieces of disposable kit that can be decommissioned at the end of their 'useful' military life."

The figures emerged after it was revealed that two guard dogs used to protect the Duke of Cambridge were euthanised within days of him leaving his military base.

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Some 288 dogs were put down by the MoD over the past three years

Brus, a Belgian Shepherd, and Blade, a German Shepherd, had been part of a unit introduced to provide extra security while the Duke of Cambridge was working as a search and rescue pilot at the base.

However after he left, the dogs were deemed "unsuitable" for other duties or re-homing and as a result were euthanised.

An MoD spokesman said the move "was entirely coincidental," but the deaths of the dogs still caused an uproar on social media sites.

But the Dogs Trust said the news would sadden dog lovers, but acknowledged that not all service dogs could be rehomed.

However the charity said there were alternatives for healthy dogs, such as deployment to another role or retirement to a specialist handler.

"Although it is impossible for Dogs Trust to speculate about the decisions made about Brus and Blade, we would have hoped that the loyalty the dogs had shown their handlers during their working life was reciprocated at the time of their retirement," said the Trust, which describes itself as the UK's largest dog rehoming charity.

The animal welfare group Peta slammed the move, saying dogs "are not tools and are not ours to use and toss away like empty ammunition shells.

"Wars are started by humans, and animals often become caught in the crossfire. Yet animals claim no nation. Animals pose no threat and own no weapons, and humans always win in the undeclared war against them.

"For animals, there is no Geneva Convention and no peace treaty—just our mercy.

In the US former-military dogs are free to adopt and are not euthanised if they are not rehomed, with a law being passed in 2000 to promote adoption.

An MoD spokesman said: "Our animals play an invaluable role on military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere and are much loved by the troops.

"Most animals are re-homed. Regrettably, due to the challenging nature of their work, some of our dogs get injured or contract illnesses and need to be put down. These decisions are taken only as a last resort following veterinary advice."