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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

MoD put in the doghouse over care of its four-legged soldiers

A Catholic welfare group has called on the Government to end the “horrendous cruelty” experienced by military dogs, as it emerged dozens have been destroyed over the past year.

New figures released by the Ministry of Defence show 38 military working dogs were euthanised between March and December. Of these six were put down due to dangerous temperament, with a further six destroyed because of ‘failing to maintain standards’.

Speaking about the situation, which has been raised recently at Westminster, Chris Fegan, chief executive of Catholic Concern for Animals, said it was a “very bad situation” for animals to be used by the UK state and then killed once their “perceived usefulness to the Armed Forces is over”.

“These animals are used and then killed in all of our names and I call on the Government to intervene to end such awful activity and horrendous cruelty to dogs that are in their care,” Mr Fegan told The Universe.

“The UK is supposed to be a dog-loving nation and this is a blot on that claim as these animals work for our collective security and protection with the Armed Forces and then they are just disposed of in the most appalling manner when they have outlived their perceived usefulness.”

Mr Fegan’s concerns echoed those of Tim Farron, who obtained the figures through a written parliamentary question. He said there was not enough effort being made to rehome the dogs.

“These animals have bravely and innocently served our country, protecting our service men and women and saving countless lives. Surely we owe it to all former service dogs to look at other options like detraining programmes before they are put down?”

However, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said every effort was made to rehome the dogs, with more than 600 rehomed since 2013.

Mr Williamson said the term ‘failing to maintain standards’ was based on veterinary records and could include welfare and behavioural issues.

Five further dogs were put down due to age or welfare concerns, he said, while the remaining reasons for euthanising the animals included a wide range of medical conditions.

Previous figures released to Parliament showed that in 2015/16, 79 military dogs were destroyed, including 40 which were judged unsuitable for re-homing.
More than 100 military working dogs have been rehomed every year since 2013, including 121 last year, according to the figures.

Mr Williamson stepped in late last year to save two retired Army dogs which faced being destroyed because they were too aggressive to rehome. However he admitted that “sadly, there are some occasions where it is not possible to rehome. In such cases decisions are taken following a full assessment by military veterinarians and dog behaviourist experts.”

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Picture: A military working dog. (Ben Birchall/PA).