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US Group Calls for Greater Care for Military Dogs

Animal rights advocates in the United States say the country not only needs to take care of its veterans but also the military dogs that have risked their lives on the battlefield. Some members of Congress have also joined the call to honor America's canine heroes.

At an event on Capitol Hill organized by the American Humane Association, Democratic congressman Henry Cuellar said it is important to strengthen the bond between soldiers and military dogs.

"When you have the connection between a soldier and one of the dogs he has been with that actually has saved lives, it's making sure, it's not only when they are in the battle ground, but when they come back [we] give them the opportunity if they want to adopt that particular dog," said Cuellar.

A majority in Congress wants retiring military dogs returned to US soil and reunited with their former handlers. So does the American Humane Association, an animal welfare group.

"These guys right here are life-saving and life-changing. So for somebody who abuses animals, you are stopping somebody from changing their lives," said Robin Ganzert, from the American Humane Society.

Every year, the American Humane Association selects military dogs, law enforcement dogs, rescue dogs and others for their annual Hero Dog awards.

The Military Dog of the Year, a German shepherd named Sgt. Rambo, served as an explosive detection dog with the Marine Corps and had a front leg amputated.
Now he is the mascot of Gizmo’s Gift, a non-profit organization, and serves as an ambassador for K-9 members of the Armed Forces.

The American Hero Dog of the Year, a chihuahua named Harley, was abused in a puppy mill for 10 years and lost one of his eyes.
Now he has become a symbol of saving abused pets.

Axel, another German shepherd, won the Service Hero Dog award. His owner, retired Marine captain Jason Haag, was diagnosed with brain injuries and stress after two combat tours.
He credits Axel with helping him return to normal life.

"These guys here are life-saving and life-changing. For somebody who abuses animals, they are stopping somebody else from changing their lives," said Haag.

The American Humane Association's Robin Ganzert says every hero dog has a unique and inspiring story.

"These animals make us humans better," said Ganzert.