K-9 Veterans Day is celebrated on March 13. On this day, K-9 breeders and handlers honor the service of their furry companions. K-9s serve vital roles in the military and law enforcement. They get embedded in border patrol and customs, airports, the Coast Guard, the F.B.I., the police, and even the Secret Service. This holiday also recognizes other service dogs that help people with disabilities and support animals for those with mental health issues. Service dogs often risk their health and lives to accomplish their missions. It’s only fair that we should celebrate their efforts at least once a year.
History of K-9 Veterans Day
Joe White, a Vietnam War veteran from Jacksonville, Florida, started K-9 Veterans Day. White was a dog handler who saw firsthand how valiantly K-9s served in the conflict and was disturbed by the (now abolished) euthanasia of working dogs at the end of their military service. To help raise awareness and honor the sacrifices of military working dogs, he came up with the idea of a holiday commemorating them.
The Greeks and Romans used the earliest military working dogs, favoring the monstrous Cane Corso. The Corso served as a guard dog due to its fearsome appearance. The Persians utilized leaner, sleeker breeds like the Saluki — the ancestor of the Greyhound — for hunting wild game. Mongolians had canine sentries in their armies. These massive dogs were ancestors of the modern-day Tibetan Mastiff. Legend has it that Genghis Khan led 50,000 of his war hounds to Western Europe, where they devoured the enemy in an unstoppable march. While this account is probably military propaganda, it shows the importance of the martial role dogs occupied in ancient times.
During WWI, dogs were used as messengers by European forces. They also hauled supply carts and machine guns, located wounded soldiers, and carried medical kits. In WWII, dogs served in various branches, acting as scouts, guarding supply posts and camps, and rescuing downed pilots. The Vietnam War marked the largest deployment of dogs in U.S. military history. Canines proved invaluable in the jungle environment of Southeast Asia, with the military greatly refining techniques for handlers and K-9s alike. Unfortunately, less than 200 military working dogs made it back home from the original 20,000. Today working dogs detect explosives and narcotics, and they have much better welfare thanks to the military learning from its past mistakes.
K-9 Veterans Day timeline
Alyattes of Lydia uses war dogs to fight the Cimmerians.
Attila the Hun incorporates large Molosser dogs into his military campaigns.
Jarrett, a canine attached to the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry, becomes the mascot of the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Sergeant Stubby begins his military service and becomes the most decorated military dog of World War I.
The U.S. Canine Corps is established.
K-9 Veterans Day FAQs
What is K9 in the military?
K-9 is an abbreviation for canine, referring to military working dogs.
What states recognize K-9 Veterans Day?
New Jersey, Florida, West Virginia, and Michigan officially recognize K-9 Veterans Day.
Are military dogs veterans?
Yes, military dogs are considered veterans and not pets, so they should receive the same dignity and respect as other armed forces members.
How to Observe K-9 Veterans Day
Donate to an animal shelter
Some police and military dogs came from animal shelters. Donating money to animal shelters helps cover costs for daily operations, animal housing upgrades, staff training, and supplies. You can also donate old newspapers, feeding bowls, toys, and dog food.
Adopt a retired K-9
Most retired military dogs get adopted by their handlers. Sadly not all of them are lucky enough to find a home, especially those that don't meet training requirements. On K-9 Veterans Day, give a retired military dog a forever home where they can feel loved.
Read about the K-9 Corps
Study the history of the War Dog Program carried out by the U.S. military. During the Second World War, the K-9 Corps' work laid the foundation for military working dogs as we know them today.
5 Cool Facts About Military Dogs That Will Amaze You
They're super sniffers
K-9s have an exceptional sense of smell, about 100,000+ better than that of the average human.
Every K-9 has a rank
Like their human counterparts, every K-9 officer has a military rank; usually, this rank is higher than its handler's to ensure they get treated with the proper care and respect they deserve.
One K-9 saves hundreds of man-hours
One well-trained K-9 officer cuts back on 600 to 1,000 man-hours each year, saving military and police units valuable time.
Every K-9 has a specialty
Each K-9 is trained to an expert level in a specific skill set; this could be sniffing out narcotics or explosives, tracking human scents, detecting accelerants in suspected arson cases — and recently, finding concealed electronic devices such as thumb drives.
Most working dogs come from Europe
Around 85% of working dogs in the U.S. military come from special-purpose breeders in Germany and the Netherlands.
Why K-9 Veterans Day is Important
K-9s keep us safe
K-9s are essential in law enforcement and military operations, meaning they actively keep countries and communities secure. They also assist in search and rescue operations, saving lives in emergencies. These four-legged friends stand at the frontline, ensuring we can live in a safer environment.
They serve every day
Just like human soldiers, military working dogs are always on the clock. They're active in combat zones worldwide and help the police protect and serve back home. These K-9s deserve recognition for their hard work, whether on active duty or retired.
Dogs make the world a better place
Can you imagine a world without dogs? We would undoubtedly be duller for it. Dogs keep us active, help lower stress, and are pleasant to be around overall.
K-9 Veterans Day dates