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What Happens to K9 Veterans After They Retire?

What Happens to K9 Veterans After They Retire?

What happens to K9 veterans

What Happens to K9 Veterans After They Retire?

At some point, our K9 veterans or military working dogs will have to retire for one reason or another. They’re heroes who served the country with great pride and a lot of enthusiasm, too! But like all things in life, they must move on, and so are their handlers.

So, what happens to our beloved K9 veterans when they retire? Do they move on and live happily ever after? Well, it’s not that simple. Most of our K9 veterans are adopted by their former handlers when they retire, but many of them don’t have homes to go to. But before we talk more about the road to civilian life, let’s first understand why police and military dogs retire in the first place.

Key Takeaways

-Police and military dogs retire for various reasons
-Including age, injury, or a change in their handler’s status.
-Most K9 veterans are adopted by their former handlers when they retire, but many of them end up in a shelter.
The road to civilian life can be difficult for retired K9 veterans.

Retirement for MWDs and K9s is Mandatory

Like when people retire because of old age, canines in the military retire because they reach a certain age, usually between 8 and 12 years old. And just like us, these dogs need to adjust to a new life after retirement.

Besides the mandatory retirement, there are other reasons why a dog might be retired from service. One reason is if Fido isn’t performing up to the standards set by the military. Another is if the dog becomes too expensive to maintain or a change in the law that prohibits military dogs from serving anymore.

Did You Know?

K9 veterans go through quite a lot and have an extremely stressful job. Some of them experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) even before they reach retirement age. Aside from PTSD, dogs who’ve gone through a lot on the streets, battlefield and war-torn areas may exhibit symptoms of physical and emotional problems, i.e., aggression and separation anxiety.

Robby’s Law

The fate of retired police and military dogs before 2000 was bleak. Most of them were euthanized because no one wanted to adopt them, and their handlers couldn’t take care of them. The best chance they had was when they were left behind in the places they served and got adopted by locals.

Thankfully, this changed when Robby’s Law was enacted, which requires all retiring military dogs to be adopted by their former handlers if possible. If the handler is unavailable or unable to take the dog in, they will be placed in a kennel or shelter. At this point, the dog is still the property of the military, and they’re responsible for the animal until they are adopted.

The law was enacted after a nationwide campaign to save the lives of military dogs by bringing them home to get another chance.

K9 Retirement: Handler’s Responsibility

So, what are the handler’s responsibilities when they adopt their former K9 partner? Aside from providing a loving home, they must also ensure that the dog receives proper care, including regular vet check-ups and vaccinations. They must also observe the dog’s behaviour and manage any emotional problems they may be experiencing.

It’s not an easy task, but it’s surely rewarding when you see your furry partner adjust well to civilian life after a long, successful career serving the country.

The dog’s handler is the first choice to adopt for obvious reasons. In the most stressful situations, the relationship between man and animal has forged a bond so strong that it’s unbreakable.

Even though retired canines no longer serve in the military, they’re still considered veterans and deserve all the love and care their handlers can give. For sure, they deserve a different, albeit happier, kind of life after retirement.

Situations When Handlers Can’t Adopt

There are many reasons why handlers can’t adopt their former K9 partners, and these range from personal to financial problems.

Some handlers are already too old and can’t care for another dog. Others have children who are allergic to dogs or have serious health issues. Some have to move away from their current residence and can’t take the dog along.

The dogs are placed in a kennel or shelter in all these cases and wait for someone to adopt them. It’s not an ideal situation, but at least there’s a chance that they’ll be taken care of and will live out their days comfortably.

But being in a shelter isn’t necessarily the end of the road. Non-profit organizations throughout North America help K9 veterans find the best family or individual to take them in.

It just goes to show that many people want to help these furry veterans, and as long as there’s someone out there who will take them in, they’ll always have a place to call home.

Adoption from a civilian family isn’t as straightforward compared to when the handler adopts his K9 partner. However, the system works well most of the time.

The adopting family should also have sufficient fencing in their yard and enough room for the dog to run around and play. They must also be willing to take the dog to obedience school and be responsible for his vet care. It’s a big commitment, but it’s surely worth it when you see how happy the dog is in their new home.


There are many ways for a K9 veteran to find a new home after retirement. The handler is always the first choice, but if they’re unavailable or unable to take the dog in, then there are plenty of other families and individuals who are more than willing to do so.

It’s just a matter of finding the right one for what most people see as nothing more than a typical dog, but to us, they’re heroes who have selflessly served their country. That alone gives them every right to a comfortable and loving home for the rest of their days.

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