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Veterinary Forum November 2008 (Vol 25, No 11)

Combat dogs get new hospital

    SAN ANTONIO — The Military Working Dog Center, a $15 million veterinary hospital for military and Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) dogs, opened in late October at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

    The building offers advanced treatments, such as CT, MRI, intensive care and physical rehabilitation for sick or wounded dogs. About 2,500 dogs trained to find drugs, explosives and more work in all branches of the military and the TSA.

    Before the center opened, military dogs were treated and rehabilitated in a cramped 40-year-old building that had been used to train dogs during the Vietnam War.

    Demand for military workings dogs jumped since Sept. 11, 2001, and the need for new facilities was obvious. At Lackland, about 750 dogs are currently being trained — twice the number that were trained before 9/11.

    It takes about 4 months to properly train a military dog, according to a spokesperson for the hospital. Available populations of desirable breeds of working dogs — the German shepherd, Labrador retriever and Belgian Malinois — are low, so officials at Lackland have begun breeding puppies at the base.

    After a military dog completes its service, both the military and the TSA try to find an appropriate home or, as one official jokingly said, adopts it out to "Fort Living Room."

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