It is "paw-sible" that the Pentagon may soon fix a "ruff" problem for military working dogs by creating portable shelters for them to shield against weapons of mass destruction.
Protective kennels for military canines to guard against chemical and biological threats may soon be in the works, according to a research solicitation proposal from the Department of Defense's Small Business Innovation Research Program.
"For certain critical missions demanding a high degree of maneuverability and general readiness, it is highly desirable to have innovative [military working dog] shelters with much lower logistical requirements and convenience elements," the research solicitation said.
These portable, collapsible dog shelters would come equipped with air filtration systems and temperature controls to ensure the safety of the animals. They would also be light enough to be carried by a single service member.
Military working dogs are often the first to enter situations where chemical and biological threats may be present but are provided with little personal protective equipment compared to their handlers. The creation of this easily transportable enclosure would be a major step toward helping safeguard a soldier's best friend and a critical military asset.
Some personal protective equipment is already available for military canines -- from ear, eye and paw protection to ballistic vests -- but these are often considered impractical because of the difficulties they create in performing duties, according to a Pentagon-funded report from May through the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.
"Microbial pathogens, chemical toxins, and chemical warfare agents all present significant risk of harm to both the handler and the canine," the report said. It also highlighted that, while military working dogs are often not the intended victim of an attack and are considered less susceptible to disease produced by these agents, they deserve better protection from exposure to contaminated environments.
Another study from 2021 on veterinary care for military working dogs found that heat-related injury is one of the more serious conditions that may affect military working dogs, making proper air circulation critical in the new kennels.
Canines have a long history of being involved in warfare; the U.S. military began officially training dogs to serve in its ranks during World War II. The health and safety of these creatures has long been an important part of the military, especially for the Army Veterinary Corps, the branch responsible for the welfare of military animals.
"As Veterinary Corps officers, we have to keep up our clinical skills in order to provide care for military working dogs," Capt. Aaron Judson, a veterinarian at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Veterinary Clinic in Louisiana, said in a press statement.
"We have a unique job; we provide a unique service to the Department of Defense because the Army is the only branch with a Veterinary Corps," he continued.
There are approximately 2,500 active military working dogs in the field today, according to the University of Georgia report.
The DoD began accepting proposals for research and development of these new protective kennels on May 18. Small business firms have until June 15 to submit a prospective project plan.
-- Jonathan Lehrfeld is a fellow at Military.com. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media.