Is It Ethical to Force Dogs to Fight Our Wars?

Emily Abbate


Pets have been used during times of war for centuries. But while they may have not exactly had a "say" in their drafting or their duty, we've never read about them being used as a weapon of mass destruction. Until now.

Okay Fido, roll over. Now sit. Fido sit!

... Fido, explode!

Can you imagine? Your favorite pooch being used as an explosive device?! Well, this horrible concept has been dreamt up and brought to reality by none other than members of Al Qaeda, according to the Paris daily Le Figaro.

It's recently been discovered that these sick terrorists took two dogs off the street about two years ago and surgically implanted dangerous explosives and detonators inside. 

I know, I cringed too.

The dogs were then placed in kennels and sent to the nearby Baghdad airport for a flight toward the U.S. And the next step -- you guessed it. It is assumed Al Qaeda wanted the pooches to blow up mid-flight.

The first record of our canine companions being used in wartime dates to the Greeks and Romans, prior to the introduction of gunpowder. The pups would head out geared with spike collars and armor, generally used to attack the enemy and defend caravans. The dogs would fight side by side with their human comrades, and face the same dangers -- a lot different than being surgically implanted with a bomb.

The question arises: Is there really much of a difference? Danger is danger. War, while sometimes necessary, is still cruel -- to humans and animals. Should Lassie have the right to stay with his companions and pups back on the farm? Is forcing animals into war considered abuse?

Before you answer that, consider the five different main roles of dogs in the military. More than 10,000 dogs have been trained for combat in 8 to 12 week programs, primarily German shepherds, Doberman pinschers, farm collies, and giant schnauzers:

Sentry Dogs

Primary Purpose: Warning and alerting

Many of these dogs are used in the darker hours and during patrol shifts. Whether it be along the U.S. borders or abroad, this dog is taught to be a loyal follower and observant. Sounds like a stand-up Lassie to me.

Scout/Patrol Dogs

Primary Purpose: Detection and ambush

Similar to sentry dogs, these pups are trained to work silently. Following patrol, they're trained to alert their teams of snipers and other enemy forces in the area using specific location skills.

Service Dogs

Primary Purpose: Rehabilitation

Now if this isn't the most amazing thing ever, I don't know what is. These pups are used to help disabled and wounded veterans get along in their day-to-day affairs. Whether it be finding their wallet, grabbing their master's shoes, or bracing injured in public -- these canines embody the definition of man's best friend.

Messenger Dogs

Primary Purpose: Delivery

The modern day carrier pigeon, these pooches are loyal Labradors that know how to travel silently and go between to handlers. Transporting important messages, these dogs are the perfect attribute to any military unit.

Mine Dogs

Primary Purpose: Find the bad stuff

Two units have been activated in history, both sent to North Africa where they looked for trip wires, metallic mines, and booby traps. 

Now, tell me ...

Is it ethical to use dogs in combat?

Image via BuchSammy/Flickr

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