A new bill in Congress aims to aid retired military working dogs, the nonprofits that help them and their new owners.
At a press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday, Rep. Ron Wright, R-Texas, announced his introduction of the K-9 Hero Act.
The bill will create a grant program to help support groups such as Mission K9 Rescue and Project K9 Hero that take in retired working dogs, including military working dogs, and provide financial assistance to the owners of retired working dogs.
The grants will cover veterinary care, which tends to average more than $3,000 per year, per dog, Wright said.
Axel, a retired K9 from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special response team who conducted more than 200 high-risk missions during his career "and apprehended some of the most dangerous criminals," Wright said. Axel retired in 2017 due to medical issues and Project K9 Hero cares for him.
Wright also mentioned U.S. Army working dog Conan, who was instrumental in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. A senator is currently calling for Conan to be honored with the Guardians of America's Freedom Medal.
Organizations like Mission K9 Rescue do not typically receive any federal funding for their efforts supporting workings dogs.
"This K9 took off, racing down an underground tunnel before cornering Baghdadi, leaving him nowhere to run," Wright said. "It's stories like these that inspired me to introduce the K9 Hero Act. When these heroes retire from service, they're no longer government property ... These K9s require a significant amount of attention and medical care and create a financial burden on the people who care for them.
"These dogs assist our federal government in ways that no man or machine could. It's unacceptable to me for them to live with inadequate medical care or even be euthanized, in some cases, after sacrificing so much for our country. This bill helps ensure these heroes are well taken care of in retirement."