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Can Patriotic Puppies Save the Day?

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68 – May, 2020

By Amy Fernandez

Obviously, we are all charting the same vision board of purebred renaissance. And some of AKC’s recent inspirations are reviving my faith in the brain trust over at corporate. So, let’s discuss one of these new projects, the AKC Patriotic Puppy Program. Technically, the idea’s not that new. 1941 marked the first daring collaboration between AKC and civilian groups to create a homegrown K9 defense force. And despite wholesale skepticism and a few wrong turns, it revolutionized America’s military preparedness and laid the groundwork for programs that have since evolved into a global megabusiness, which is the basis of our current problem.

Billions of dollars spent on counterterrorism technology has found nothing more reliable and effective than the good old canine nose. Dogs accurately and easily distinguish faint traces of an astounding variety of scent molecules, achieving results when all else fails. In addition to ongoing demand from every branch of the military and every police department, the ever expanding scope of this job has created a perpetual dog shortage.

And Carmen Battaglia knows this better than anyone. “I’ve been pounding on that subject for at least ten years. There are no government breeding programs left,” he says. (The last one became a casualty of budget cuts in 2013.) As shortsighted government officials belatedly discovered, dog breeding is rarely a straightforward enterprise and creating a viable, consistent bloodline requires tremendous time, effort, money. However, the Patriotic Puppy Program is designed to get around this. “It’s not dependent on the government. It’s not exactly a joint effort either,” Battaglia says. If Carmen’s just confusing you, let’s start at the beginning.

Prior to December 7, 1941 America’s military K9 defense force amounted to zero. Then, overnight the war ravaging Europe was at our doorstep and homeland security came into crystal clear focus. Of course, dogs were an integral part of military defense over there since the 1800s. And it was acknowledged that they doubled or tripled human effectiveness. European police departments had standardized training programs long before the outset of World War I. By 1918, Germany had over 20,000 dogs ready for military work and France had over 15,000. When America entered World War II, Germany had 200,000 trained military dogs and had already provided 25,000 to the Japanese. Despite overwhelming historical precedent, America’s military had minimal interest in launching anything similar–although their annual budget still included millions for breeding and maintaining war horses.

This reluctance was partly because they had virtually no experience with dogs. And it was our sport that stepped into the void and solved this problem. (Mention that next time somebody starts pontificating about the obsolescence of purebred dogs.) Thanks to the combined efforts of AKC, PHA, Westminster, and 402 dog clubs nationwide, Dogs for Defense, Inc. (DFD) became a reality within weeks. Six months later, the groundwork was in place for massive standardized recruitment, screening and training programs that supplied four specific roles of military service. Dogs are now embedded in every branch of our military. However, the expertise responsible for that originated within the ranks of our sport.

Click here to read the complete article
68 – May, 2020

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