This year will mark the eighth year that K-9 veterans will be honored for their service to the country on Canine Veterans Day, March 13. The day is in recognition of the duty and sacrifice that military working dogs perform in service to their country.
The idea of a K-9 Veterans Day originated with retired military working dog (MWD) trainer Joe White, who wanted recognition for dogs that serve in military, law enforcement, and other capacities. He selected March 13 because it is the official birthday–March 13, 1942–of the U.S. Army K-9 Corps and this year marks the 74th anniversary.
“Dogs have served with honor throughout the history of our country’s birth and growth, and have served at many jobs in all of our wars,” White said. “They, too, served, bled and died for our freedom.”
Through White’s efforts, then-Governor Charlie Crist declared the date as K-9 Veterans Day, making Florida the first state to do so. Since that time, 13 other states have followed suit, including California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the U.S. Army received the first nine American-trained sentry dogs. From those nine dogs, the U.S. Army Canine Corps was formed. Before the end of the war, it grew to a force of more than 10,000 dogs.
Today, military service dogs perform many duties, including search and patrol; explosives detection; search and rescue; guard duty; and as companions to wounded service members who suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Among law enforcement ranks, dogs perform patrol, search and rescue and detection duties for drugs, explosives, arson accelerants and cadavers.
This year Canine Veteran’s Day will be observed at locations throughout the country at U.S. military outposts around the world.