Animals in the Military
Animals work in every branch of the armed forces — and they have since the beginning of time. Horses once carried soldiers into battle. Today, horses in the military are basically used for show in parades and at funerals. In battle, horses have been replaced by tanks and other vehicles.
Dogs, on the other hand, are used for sniffing out drugs and explosives. They were used in Vietnam for scouting, tracking, sentry duty, flushing out the enemy, and detecting mines and booby traps. Dogs in K-9 units are used today in Iraq.
The U.S. Navy has used dolphins for surveillance and mine detection in Vietnam and in the Persian Gulf. Using dolphins is controversial. Many animal rights groups have opposed the military on this issue. It is in the best interest of animal trainers — in the military and in civilian life — to take the best possible care of each and every animal they are working with. However, in military service animals don't always survive.
Just like a soldier, an animal that is placed in a dangerous situation may not come out alive. For instance, chickens were used in Kuwait to detect chemical and biological weapons. Unfortunately, more than half of the birds died from heat exhaustion from the harsh desert sun.
On the other side of the issue, the military treats its animals as valuable members of its team. They are an asset used to help protect multimillion-dollar ships and their most precious cargo — the sailors.
Members of the armed forces who wish to work with and train animals for search and rescue and defense areas need to have at least a year of military service before requesting assignment to animal training. While there is a need for animal trainers, animal rights groups are pressuring military personnel to use alternatives in place of animals.