24/10/2013 11:27 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

Retired Military Dog Deaths: MPs And Animal Welfare Experts Left 'Genuinely Shocked'


Animal welfare experts and MPs have been left "genuinely shocked," by the news that hundreds of retired British military dogs have been destroyed since 2009.

The "troubling" news has spurred MPs and animal charities to call on military bosses to ensure euthanasia is a last resort for retired dogs, in a desperate appeal to explore other options.


Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt said she was left "genuinely shocked by the surprisingly high figures for euthanasia for ex-military animals.

"When the MoD invests millions of taxpayers' money on training these animals, it seems unfortunate that their ongoing welfare is not taken nearly as seriously. This is troubling," she said.

"I have always believed that the way people treat animals says a lot about them, and I hope that the release of these figures into the public domain will lead to greater planning and a more compassionate approach in future."

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed it had put down 42 dogs due to a "dangerous temperament", while 27 developed cancer-related health problems.

Last month the Sun newspaper revealed two guard dogs used to protect the Duke of Cambridge were put down within days of him leaving his military base at RAF Valley on Anglesey.

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.

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

While 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.

According to the latest figures, the majority of the retired dogs were put down due to "age and welfare" reasons, while 76 had osteoarthritis.

Figures obtained by the Press Association show four were killed in action in Afghanistan, while another had to be destroyed due to injuries sustained in a road accident.

A further 419 dogs were rehomed between January 2009 and mid-June this year, the MoD said.

An MoD spokesman said it was reviewing its policy to ensure that a military vet, in conjunction with an experienced dog handler, would be involved with every decision to put a dog to sleep.

Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton and chairman of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, said: "Dogs employed in our armed services demonstrate commitment to their handlers and bravery on a daily basis and have undoubtedly saved the lives of countless servicemen and women. We have a duty of care for their well-being as real as the military covenant.

"Although I think that most people will understand that it is not always possible to rehome all ex-service dogs, I think it is vitally important that we make sure that none of the 117 dogs that were put down because of 'age and welfare' reasons since 2009 were done so out of expediency and that every effort is made to rehome ex-service animals.

"The Government has stated that there are no time restrictions on a dog being kept while a suitable home is looked for and I hope that the Ministry of Defence bears this in mind."

The MoD said "every effort" was made to rehome military working dogs at the end of their service life, although illnesses associated with old age forced some dogs to be destroyed.

A spokesman added: "The MoD has a moral and legal duty to ensure the welfare of our animals and only put down those dogs that cannot be rehomed. We announced in September that we would review our existing policy to ensure that consistency across the MoD.

"Military working dogs play an invaluable role on the front line helping to save the lives of our armed forces and local residents in Afghanistan. Dogs are afforded as much protection as possible and handlers are specifically trained to minimise the risks that dogs face in performing their tasks."