A gigantic defense spending bill signed Wednesday by U.S. President Barack Obama will allow U.S. military dogs to be returned to the United States upon their retirement and gives their military handlers first chance to adopt them.
Previously, U.S. military dogs could be retired overseas, which made them civilians and thus ineligible for military transport home to the U.S.
The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act changes that with provisions backed by the American Humane Association.
The association estimates each military dog saves the lives of between 150-200 servicemen and women by detecting IEDs and hidden weapons caches.
The new law requires that military working dogs be returned to U.S. soil when they retire and that their former handlers will be given the first chance to adopt them.
The new law comes at a time when care of U.S. veterans is under heavy scrutiny, as the U.S. struggles to cope with thousands of wounded service members returning from the longstanding conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Humane Association notes that reuniting working dogs with their handlers can help both veterans overcome wartime trauma and readjust to civilian life.
"This is a great day for military heroes on both ends of the leash. We believe all our veterans -- two-footed and four-footed -- should come back to a hero's welcome," Humane Association President Robin Ganzert said.