House Bill 1009 and its’ sister bill S849 propose to enact a new statute regarding the disposition of city and county property and a possible true retirement for those dogs that have served us alongside their law enforcement partners in lieu of the auction block or the landfill.
The bills second “Robby’s Law”, Title 10 U.S. Code § 2583, where retired service animals’ ownership may be transferred to the handler, his/her surviving spouse or children or an approved animal organization dedicated to retired officers.
The original struggle for the disposition of these animals begins with a military handler of “Robby” who failed in his struggle to keep his partner. The dog was euthanized but spearheaded the federal law allowing the dogs to be saved and adopted to their handlers.
Prior to the law enacted in 2000 and signed by President Bill Clinton, the US military disposed of our military K9’s as “surplus equipment”, a bullet taking care of the “extra weight” or simply sold off. Today, “Robby’s Law” allows these animals to be saved and adopted. North Carolina appears to be following suit.
Additionally, the so called “surplus equipment” may be transferred to law enforcement agencies; North Carolina has been the recipient of some of these transfers. Robby’s Law requires an annual report regarding the disposition of these dogs be submitted to Congress. You can read reports from 2000 to 2011 posted on the Save-A-Vet site:
I wasn’t able to find reports after 2011 and read that a proposal to stop the reporting has been introduced to Congress.
The NC bill was originally affecting and sponsored by representatives of Wake County. As it progresses through its’ readings, it now includes sponsorship by Wake, Cumberland, Robeson, Durham, Guilford, Chatham, Lee, Buncombe and Iredell counties, yet only affects Guilford, Moore, Randolph, Surry and Wake.
At first glance the bill may not raise any flags or spark any particular interest. It does get more interesting after reading about the background of why we need a bill to re home service animals in the first place. Counties and cities are fast to inform that these animals are property and the transfer of county personal property has the right to convey property by private sale when that right is conferred by another law, public, or local. By my reading of § 160A-279, Sale of property to entities carrying out a public purpose; procedure, the bill is establishing “another law”. I also read that local law can establish the sale of these dogs to their handlers. However, and I think most of us will agree, local law makers avoid changing or enacting any local animal laws. Wake County isn’t queasy and takes it on. Good for them.
There is no short supply of stories about the bond between military and law enforcement K9s and their handlers locally or nationally. Some departments realize the human aspect of their staff and respond more appropriately than others. “Connect to the community, not to the canine.” is archaic and ignores the reasoning the officers and their partners do so well together.
I can share a few stories about local service canines:
In Morganton, a Forest Service officer Jason Crisp and his K9 partner, Maros were ambushed and killed while on duty. Crisp and Maros were buried together.
In Nash County, Rocky Mount K9 officer Shasha, had a leg amputated due to a cancerous growth. The Department could have retired her, euthanized her, or let the cancer grow. The dog's leg was amputated and is now back at work with her handler, Sgt. Greg Adams. The Sheriff’s Department kept the community’s interest in mind and posted her progress on their Facebook page.
In Ohio, a police officer who retired attempted to purchase his partner of 4 years and was denied. The law stipulated the dog be auctioned off. The dog’s value was placed at $3,500. After the community raised $45,000 and the officer was made an auxiliary, he was able to keep his partner.
But, there is always the down side for the animals. Most of us have witnessed far too much of it.
Many of us have, at least one experience involving local K9s beyond the handler and dog arriving at the shelter for a bath, observing the dog clear a crime scene, giving a demonstration or at the local veterinary for treatments, etc.
Many of us, myself included, have witnessed retired K9 officers being neglected, euthanized due to the maltreatment of their handlers, displaying unrestrained aggression due to an unchecked machismo ego in handler’s homes, some even transferred to another handler as a form of punishment by the sheriff. Again, as most of you know, little to none about these situations are known but by a very few and may happen more often than we would like to know.
Recently, a retired K9 was discovered in Hoke County, tethered to a fence and about starved to death. A local animal welfare organization is trying to save the dog and the Sheriff’s office is investigating. Kudos to Hoke ACO’s for seizing this poor dog and to the Sheriff’s office for investigating. Now that it is in the media and the person responsible is probably blatantly obvious; we can hope for accountability.
There are also websites that buy, sell and trade these “working dogs”. The New York Post published an article about these dogs and a possible black market. Again, North Carolina makes its’ way into the story. This time it is in Lenoir County,
The House bill is moving fairly quickly; let’s keep an eye on it and for the dogs who live to serve.
If you are interested in furthering your military acronym vocabulary regarding these dogs, here is a starter: