Presumed to be the most accurate accounting of the latest laws governing Military Working Dog Adoptions.
10 U.S. Code § 2583 - Military animals: transfer and adoption
(a)Availability for Adoption.—The Secretary of the military department concerned shall make a military animal of such military department available for adoption by a person or entity referred to in subsection (c), unless the animal has been determined to be unsuitable for adoption under subsection (b), under circumstances as follows:
At the end of the animal’s useful life.
Before the end of the animal’s useful life, if such Secretary, in such Secretary’s discretion, determines that unusual or extraordinary circumstances, including circumstances under which the handler of a military working dog is killed in action, dies of wounds received in action, or is medically retired as a result of injuries received in action, justify making the animal available for adoption before that time.
When the animal is otherwise excess to the needs of such military department.
(b)Suitability for Adoption.—
The decision whether a particular military animal is suitable or unsuitable for adoption under this section shall be made by the commander of the last unit to which the animal is assigned before being declared excess. The unit commander shall consider the recommendations of the unit’s veterinarian in making the decision regarding the adoptability of the animal.
(1)A military animal shall be made available for adoption under this section, in order of recommended priority—
by former handlers of the animal;
by other persons capable of humanely caring for the animal; and
by law enforcement agencies.
If the Secretary of the military department concerned determines that an adoption is justified under subsection (a)(2) under circumstances under which the handler of a military working dog is wounded in action, the dog shall be made available for adoption only by the handler. If the Secretary of the military department concerned determines that such an adoption is justified under circumstances under which the handler of a military working dog is killed in action or dies of wounds received in action, the military working dog shall be made available for adoption only by a parent, child, spouse, or sibling of the deceased handler.
The transfer of a military animal under this section may be without charge to the recipient.
(e)Limitations on Liability for Transferred Animals.—
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the United States shall not be subject to any suit, claim, demand or action, liability, judgment, cost, or other fee arising out of any claim for personal injury or property damage (including death, illness, or loss of or damage to property or other economic loss) that results from, or is in any manner predicated upon, the act or omission of a former military animal transferred under this section, including any training provided to the animal while a military animal.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the United States shall not be liable for any veterinary expense associated with a military animal transferred under this section for a condition of the military animal before transfer under this section, whether or not such condition is known at the time of transfer under this section.
(f)Transfer of Retired Military Working Dogs.—
(1)If the Secretary of the military department concerned determines that a military working dog should be retired the Secretary shall transfer the dog—
to the 341st Training Squadron; or
to another location within the United States for adoption under this section.
(2)Paragraph (1) shall not apply if at the time of retirement—
the dog is located outside the United States and a United States citizen or service member living abroad adopts the dog; or
the dog is located within the United States and suitable adoption is available where the dog is located.
(g)Preference in Adoption of Retired Military Working Dogs for Former Handlers.—
In providing for the adoption under this section of a retired military working dog described in paragraph (1) or (3) of subsection (a), the Secretary of the military department concerned shall accord a preference to the former handler of the dog unless the Secretary determines that adoption of the dog by the former handler would not be in the best interests of the dog.
In the case of a dog covered by paragraph (1) with more than one former handler seeking adoption of the dog at the time of adoption, the Secretary shall provide for the adoption of the dog by such former handler whose adoption of the dog will best serve the interests of the dog and such former handlers. The Secretary shall make any determination required by this paragraph with respect to a dog following consultation with the kennel master of the unit at which the dog was last located before adoption under this section.
Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as altering, revising, or overriding any policy of a military department for the adoption of military working dogs by law enforcement agencies before the end of the dogs’ useful lives.
(h)Military Animal Defined.—In this section, the term “military animal” means the following:
A military working dog.
A horse owned by the Department of Defense.
(Added Pub. L. 106–446, § 1(a), Nov. 6, 2000, 114 Stat. 1932, § 2582; renumbered § 2583, Pub. L. 107–107, div. A, title X, § 1048(a)(25), Dec. 28, 2001, 115 Stat. 1224; amended Pub. L. 109–163, div. A, title V, § 599, Jan. 6, 2006, 119 Stat. 3284; Pub. L. 109–364, div. A, title III, § 352(a), Oct. 17, 2006, 120 Stat. 2160; Pub. L. 110–181, div. A, title X, § 1063(a)(13), Jan. 28, 2008, 122 Stat. 322; Pub. L. 112–81, div. A, title III, § 351, title X, § 1061(20), Dec. 31, 2011, 125 Stat. 1375, 1584; Pub. L. 112–239, div. A, title III, § 371(a), Jan. 2, 2013, 126 Stat. 1706; Pub. L. 113–66, div. A, title X, § 1091(b)(2), Dec. 26, 2013, 127 Stat. 876; Pub. L. 114–92, div. A, title III, § 342, Nov. 25, 2015, 129 Stat. 793.)
Per Lackland: Title 10 US Code 2583 gives priority first to civilian Law Enforcement Agencies, then to prior handlers, and finally to the general public. In the event that a dog’s age or fitness precludes it from being considered for Law Enforcement duties, then a former handler is most often selected. Better than 90% of former MWDs are adopted by their handlers at field units.
The dog is offered to the last handler first, if s/he does not take the dog, then the dog is offered to the next previous handler, the one before that and so on.
MOST TIMES WITH THE TEDD PROGRAM THE HANDLERS WERE NEVER NOTIFIED THEIR PARTNERS WERE READY FOR ADOPTION. THE TEDD PROGRAM is a different program than Lackland, TEDD dogs were owned by the ARMY. In early 2013-14 countless MWDs from the TEDD PROGRAM were adopted out in North Carolina to private citizens where they still reside today. Most of these private citizens FLATLY REFUSE to even consider returning these War Dogs to their Handlers. To refuse to return a MWD to it's Handler is not a very nice thing to do, this is an unacceptable way to treat our Military members. It is NOT PATRIOTIC. A Handler and MWD put their lives on the line for all Americans. They were, still are and always will be a team. There are numerous civilian families who are refusing to return the dog to it's Handler, if you know one of these families, please encourage them to return the dog to the Handler.
If you are a member of the general public, please keep in mind that the dog you adopted: worked with, was the partner to it's Handler, together they SAVED many lives... creating a bond for the handlers and warriors that is beyond most civilians comprehension. They need their DOG... so please consider looking for handlers or being open to them if they show up later on down the road to make the dog available to them... This can happen in a couple of different ways. Perhaps the Handler would like to have his or her dog returned to them. If you, general public, have bonded with the dog, this will be at great personal sacrifice on your part. However, sometimes for a multitude of reasons a Handler can not adopt, but would like contact, perhaps via pictures, phone and visits.
ALSO, PLEASE CONSIDER THIS... The dogs made available for adoption that returned home from war, will be offered for adoption because they can not work anymore. This means they may have multiple physical injuries and old age issues that will have high medical care costs. In some cases, extremely high cost. The dogs are not 'show-pieces' - they will need to be Adopted - Loved & Honored and will cost you much money. Most are not house trained, and most will continue working in 'their head', you will need to know what their triggers are... you will need to seriously educated yourself... Some adopters find their dogs needs to sniff all the cars in the parking lot or parked cars while walking down the street.... and much more. ( There is no 'official' medical care for retired Military or Contract Working Dogs )
Every base handles their own adoptions across the DoD. If individuals are interested in adopting from somewhere besides Lackland they would need to go through that unit that owns the dog.
The one drawback for public adoptions at operational bases is that nearly all of those dogs go to the handler and never make it to the public. This is the most ideal situation for the dog.
The dogs housed at Lackland don't typically have any handler assigned for an extended period of time which makes it much easier for the public to adopt. There are approximately 15-20 dogs that become available each month, however currently Lackland has close to 500 applications on file.
This could potentially cause someone interested in adopting to wait 12-18 months to adopt depending on the dogs that are available. That wait does not apply to operational units as they may only have one or two dogs a year retire out.