QCA has been involved for over a year now in the matter of animals in war and we shall be laying purple poppies at several Remembrance services again this year on November 14th.
Our Anglican friend and hardworking animal campaigner in Australia, Olga Parkes, has also taken up this issue. She is in contact with George Hulse, a retired military man, president of the Australian Defence Force Trackers and War Dogs Association (ADFTWDA). As the name implies, his group is concerned with the dogs, but Olga wishes to extend her interest to all animals in war and in the correspondence below, George refers to remembrance of other animals caught up in conflict.
QCA has received their kind permission to post the following information on our site.
On our site, www.aussiewardogs.org, there are many combat profiles to view, going back to the Korean War. All are Australian stories and focussed entirely on dogs and their handlers. I am adding to this as and when I get time to interview all the dog handlers coming home from Afghanistan and also as I track down military working dog handlers from past conflicts.
All Australian military working dogs are repatriated home. In order for this to happen, we in the ADF have to follow a rigorous dog reporting and maintenance regime. At the completion of the tour of duty in an overseas deployment – one in Afghanistan and one in East Timor – the documentation is given to the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) and the dog is cleared for re-entry into Australia.
The moment the dog arrives in Australia (in every case terminating at Sydney International Airport), he or she is taken immediately to undergo veterinary checks by AQIS and is held in quarantine for a period of not less than 28 days (generally 30). At the end of quarantine, the dog returns to the parent ADF unit for further duty.
I’m wondering whether, when you consider memorials, you would find a way to include all animal victims of war. In the past we humans have a very poor record, and I think particularly of the horses abandoned in Egypt by Australians and British personnel.
The Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra has a memorial to all animals in war. Entitled “A is for Animals”, the AWM dedicated a bust of a horse’s head as the icon for all animals in June 2009. The horse is symbolic of the 40,000 Whalers which served in the Palestine Campaign of WWI, and which were not repatriated to Australia. The Whaler is a famous hybrid horse used by Australian Light Horse Mounted Infantry and Australian Cavalry units during WWI.
I wrote a missive to the Directorate of Honours and Awards a few years ago describing dogs as “Canine Soldiers”. There was sympathy for my work, but it was pointed out to me that the Australian Defence Act 1903 forbids any government from recognising their contribution to Australia’s defence by the issue of an official medal. My organisation launched our successful medals for dogs campaign, and now the ADFTWDA issues unofficial medals to our war dogs, as well as those of the State and Federal Police, Corrective Services, AQIS and Customs.
Can you tell me whether the Australian dogs are always repatriated at the end of their assignments?
A lot depends on the capability of the individual dog when it comes home to Australia. If the dog is young, full of beans and is a happy animal, it goes back to the parent unit (Royal Australian Air Force Squadron or Army Regiment). It is reunited with its handler and they continue to train together. However, if the dog is getting on in years or has an illness diagnosed, it is offered to the military dog handler as his/her own pet. If the handler does not want the dog – this hasn’t happened yet – it is offered as a pet to members of the military unit. In the case of RAAF security dogs which have been trained to defend their handler, these dogs might not be offered to anybody except their handler, due to the risk of accidental bite. To my knowledge, most RAAF security dogs serve out their entire lives in the RAAF and are not offered out as pets to the general public.
There have been a number of military working dogs which have served in more than one operational theatre of war. For example, EDD Mick served in Somalia and afterwards in The Solomon Islands. We have a few EDD which have served in East Timor and Afghanistan and on return to Australia from their last deployment, went on to serve as training dogs in the Army.
We consider our dogs as canine soldiers – despite the Defence Act of 1903. All our handlers prefer to stay with their dogs for as long as they can, including taking them home as personal pets when the dog is discharged from service.
You might like to know that some military dog handlers ask, when their dog passes on, that it be cremated and the ashes given to the handler for storage in their home in perpetual memory.
~ George Hulse,
Lt. Colonel RAE (Retd.)
President Australian Defence Force Trackers and War Dogs Association (ADFTWDA).
You might like to look up the Afghanistan combat profile of Corporal David Simpson (now Sergeant) on their site, which relates the miraculous story of his dog Sarbi.
~ Many thanks to Olga and George for your work and for this report.