POSTED: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 10:04pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 11:39am
DALLAS (KETK) — Military dogs have been used for years, protecting and saving thousands of lives of our men and women serving overseas.
But what happens when they're done with their job?
Unfortunately, their treatment doesn't always match that of a veteran.
In many ways, nine-year-old Malinois "Kyra" is just now living out her puppy-hood.
"This dog is crazy about toys," said Bill Queitsch. "She can't have enough toys."
Up until last year, she never had much play time.
"Kyra is an explosives detection dog," Queitsch said. "They use them in narcotics detection."
As a military working dog, Kyra served in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
She retired in late 2012, and found her forever home with Queitsch, who lives in Dallas, and is a veteran himself.
"I think I can understand probably a little bit more than a lot of people can, since I saw what they went through and what they did," Queitsch said. "And I can almost guarantee I'm one of the lives they've saved."
For years, retired military dogs were left to be thrown out or euthanized when their work was done.
"During Vietnam, there were probably just under 5,000 dogs that were left," Queitsch said. "Only 200 dogs were brought back."
That has since changed.
Under President Clinton, a bill was passed to bring them home and get them adopted.
The problem is, the government still classifies these dogs as "equipment."
"Of course, equipment doesn't bleed," said Debbie Kandoll. "As such, they have no medical benefits, and dogs stationed at permanent bases overseas ... if they retire at those bases, it is incumbent upon the adopter to pay the shipment cost of the dog back."
Shipping the dogs back is anything but cheap.
"A shipment from Germany back to the U.S. is right around $2,000," Kandoll said.
That's one reason why people like Kandoll decided to do something.
"These dogs are not equipment," Kandoll said. "They are soldiers. While we understand the budgetary constraints of the USA, we think we can do better."
Investing her entire 401k in the project, Kandoll started Military Working Dog Adoptions in 2008.
"Whatever it takes to get these dogs what they deserve," Kandoll said. "That's what we're about. We have 30,000 people who contribute to our mission and ministry."
The nonprofit organization helps raise the funds to transport military dogs back home, and place them with qualified adoptive owners, like Queitsch.
"We've helped more than 400 working dogs," Kandoll said.
Meanwhile, there's still a push for more legislation protecting these animals.
Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina helped introduce The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act.
Though the act passed in early 2013, a key part of the original bill was thrown out, which included the reclassification of the dogs from equipment to service members.
"... So, basically, we are left with a watered down political mumbo jumbo language," Kandoll said.
While people like Kandoll wait for change to be made, they refuse to sit still.
"We're not waiting," Kandoll said. "They may call them equipment, but we know they are four-footed soldiers. Anybody with whom these dogs serve recognize them as combat brothers and buddies in battle ... They are not pets, they are vets. They may live a civilian life from here on, but they will always be a veteran."
Instead, they strive to be the voice for dogs like Kyra: Our nation's unsung heroes.
For more on Military Working Dog Adoptions, click here .