On December 23, 2016, then New York State governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed legislation that made New York’s official state dog as the working dog. This includes any canines that provide a service, from police and military dogs to guide dogs and service dogs.
As Liz Donovan wrote for the AKC, “All breeds trained to provide a service are celebrated in this law, from the German Shepherd Dog that stands guard at Grand Central to the Belgian Malinois that patrols with police to the sweet Golden Retriever that leads his visually impaired owner around the city to the many more working dogs around the state.”
The inspiration for the bill was “Bari,” the dog of Assemblyman Matthew Titone who was trained as a therapy dog. Titone said, “In the aftermath of 9/11, nearly 100 search and rescue dogs and their brave handlers combed Ground Zero, working around the clock to locate survivors and casualties. On May 2, 2011, after weeks of training and drills, military working dog Cairo joined SEAL Team 6 on their successful mission to locate Osama bin Laden. The service/working dog embodies the spirit of New York – hardworking, loyal, and eager to serve.”
Owning a former military dog is not impossible. While 90% of canine veterans end up with their handlers, a few do end up available for adoption. Groups like Lakeland Air Force Base (where all military pups receive their training), TSA, and Mission K9 all help facilitate adoptions of contract military working dogs who are sometimes harder to reunite with their handlers.
Former law enforcement dogs, i.e. bomb sniffing dogs, drug detection dogs, and the like are also sometimes available, though most dogs stay with their handlers after retirement, and you may have to add your name to the end of a long list. Anyone interested in one of these former officers should contact their local police station to express interest in adopting a retired police dog, and either the station can help, or if it doesn’t handle adoptions directly, they can point you in the right direction. Another place to contact are K9 officer training facilities. A Google search for “K9 officer training facilities” brought up 1,250,000 results, so you may want to narrow the search down to your state or region.
Not all service dogs make the cut, and many have career changes, but you may have to wait a while. Currently, the waiting list to adopt a dog through Guide Dogs of America is over six years. There is also an “Ultimate List of Service Dog Schools With Adoption Programs” that you can find here.
As for Cairo, four days after the raid in a private ceremony honoring Seal Team Six, the squadron commander mentioned to President Obama that a Belgian Malinois named, “Cairo,” was part of the team. “There was a dog?” Obama asked. The President was told that Cairo was in the next room, and when Obama said “I want to meet that dog,” he was jokingly told by the commander, “If you want to meet the dog, Mr. President, I advise you to bring treats.” The President met Cairo, and Cairo met the President. In 2011, Time magazine awarded Cairo its prestigious Animal of the Year award.
Sadly, Cairo died in 2016 at the age of twelve.
Do you live with a former working dog? We’d love to hear from you!
Show your support for working dogs with our official Working Dogs hat that you can order here.
Image of Navy SEAL Team 6 canine, “Cairo”