THE Army has been slammed for destroying more than 1,000 working dogs which could have been re-homed.
Hundreds have been put down because they were “old and worn out”, according to Ministry of Defence documents.
Dozens of others were destroyed by vets because they were “too fierce” to be re-homed as family pets.
Animals deemed physically fit were destroyed for “failing to maintain standards” and for “welfare reasons”, according to the documents.
Dogs were used extensively on the front line in the Iraq and Afghan wars and became a firm favourite with troops.
They were used to find explosives and as protection dogs, capable of tracking and capturing insurgents.
But many animals are now reaching an age when they are no longer regarded as useful by the MoD.
“The dogs are like members of our family, but to the Army they are seen as a resource”
Serving dog handler
One military document obtained by this newspaper states: “Old and worn out dogs are animals who have reached a certain age (over eight-years-old) and are no longer able to carry out their duties to the requisite standard.
“Many reasons exist but they are accepted to be ‘of age’ and to continue to use them would be detrimental to the animal, service or perhaps both.”
The document also states there are “animals who are not old (under eight) and are no longer able to carry out their duties to the requisite standard”.
A serving dog handler said it was tragic some dogs had to be destroyed when they still had many years in them.
He said: “The dogs are like members of our family, but to the Army they are seen as a resource.
“There are many dogs that have saved the lives of dozens of soldiers who have been put down simply because they have outlived their usefulness.”
Figures from a series of Freedom of Information requests show that between 2002 and 2012, more than 800 dogs were destroyed by Army vets.
A further 242 were put down between 2013 and 2017.
Pen Farthing, whose charity Nowzad re-homes animals abandoned in Afghanistan, said: “Those numbers are absolutely horrific.
“The suggestion that because they have got to eight-years-old so they are too old is absolutely appalling. I’m very sad about it.
“Any dogs that worked for the British military to help save lives in the various conflicts around the world, where they have served alongside a human handler, should be given every opportunity to ensure they are provided a decent retirement after being deemed ‘no longer fit for purpose’ by the military.”
Military dogs have saved many lives in Afghanistan and four won the Dickin Medal – the animal version of the Victoria Cross.
One named Theo found 114 bombs and weapons caches.
Tragically, the springer spaniel died shortly after its handler Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was shot dead in 2011.
The MoD’s approach to working dogs differs from that of the Metropolitan Police, who prefer to retire them, and that of the US military which promotes adoption.
Pen added: “They had no choice but to be there and protect our soldiers. The least we can do is be there for them.”
An MoD spokesman said: “Military working animals provide an invaluable service to our troops, and every effort is made to re-home them at the end of their service life. Decisions are taken following an extensive assessment of the animals and any potential new home.
“Sadly, there are some occasions where it is not possible to re-home an animal safely.”