March 13: K9 Vets Day

The idea of a K9 Veterans Day originated with a retired military working dog trainer named Joseph Wright who wanted recognition for dogs who serve in military, law enforcement, and other capacities. Why the date of March 13? Because this is the official birthday of the US Army K9 Corps.

During World War I, the United States began to take notice of the how Europe employed dogs to carry messages, provide comfort to soldiers, etc. Well over a million dogs were being used for these purposes. Then on March 13, 1942, the Quartermaster Corps (QMC) of the United States Army began training its own dogs for a War Dog Program, which became known as “K-9 Corps.”

Upon encouragement from The American Kennel Association and a group called Dogs for Defense, owners donated healthy and capable dogs for service. The QMC then was given the task of training dogs for the U.S. Navy, the Marines, and even the Coast Guard. After basic obedience training, qualified dogs were sent through one of four specialized programs to prepare them to work as sentry dogs, scout or patrol dogs, messenger dogs, and mine-detection dogs.

As with most pet-related holidays, K9 Vets Day isn’t officially recognized. However, there is a movement to change this. Sarah Sprouse, AKC Government Relations Legislative Analyst, reports that state legislators across the country are stepping up to recognize dog heroes. Sprouse offers these statistics from a senate resolution in Kentucky:

By the end of World War II, over 10,000 dogs were trained to search for land mines, tunnels, traps, trip wires, and other hazards undetectable to the two-footed soldier … Over 30,000 dogs have served in the military since March 13, 1942, with over 1,500 and 4,000 dogs deployed during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts … As of 2012, approximately 2,800 active duty dogs have been deployed around the world, including over 600 in Iraq and Afghanistan.– Kentucky Senate Resolution 232

The American Kennel Club encourages other states to join in the effort to recognize the contributions of our canine heroes. It encourages anyone interested in initiating a similar measure in your state legislature to contact the American Kennel Club’s Government Relations department at 919-816-3720 or doglaw@akc.org.

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