Ukrainian military dogs gain new legal rights as service members

Search and attack dogs will become an official part of the Ukrainian Border Guard service. Like their human counterparts, these dogs will be tasked with searching out and detaining enemies. 

 A female police officer stands with a dog next to a mobile recruitment center for military service under contract in Rostov-on-Don, Russia September 17, 2022.  (photo credit: SERGEY PIVOVAROV/REUTERS)
A female police officer stands with a dog next to a mobile recruitment center for military service under contract in Rostov-on-Don, Russia September 17, 2022.
(photo credit: SERGEY PIVOVAROV/REUTERS)

The Ukrainian Border Guard announced via social media on Thursday that they are codifying new standards of care for the dogs in uniform. 

Search and attack dogs will become an official part of the Ukrainian Border Guard service. Like their human counterparts, these dogs will be tasked with searching out and detaining enemies. 

All dogs can be retired at age 8, although they are permitted to work past that age if they still prove able to do so. 

Once retired, four-legged veterans will be sent to civilian homes to be taken care of in their twilight years. The exact text of the announcement (in translation) reads that they can be transferred to "legal entities of any form of ownership, with their consent in accordance with the legislation." Reading the text in translation, it is truly unclear whose consent is needed - the dog or the handler. Presumably, it is referring to the handler's consent. 

 Police officers patrol with dogs next to a mobile recruitment center for military service under contract in Rostov-on-Don, Russia September 17, 2022.  (credit: SERGEY PIVOVAROV/REUTERS) Police officers patrol with dogs next to a mobile recruitment center for military service under contract in Rostov-on-Don, Russia September 17, 2022. (credit: SERGEY PIVOVAROV/REUTERS)

Dogged attention to detail

The amendments to the instructions for the care of military service dogs also include very detailed instructions on the standard of care that the dogs are to receive during their service. This obviously includes food, exercise and shelter. But, it also specifies that towns with active service dogs should be equipped with a compound for them, complete with "a special kitchen...for the preparation, cooking, cooling and dispensing of food to service dogs, washing dishes, drinking bowls and other kitchen utensils [and] storing the daily supply of products." 

The Ukrainian military has made extensive use of four-legged soldiers since the outbreak of the war in February 2022. In May, Ukrainian mine-sniffing Jack-Russel Terrier, Patron (along with his handler), was awarded a Medal for Dedicated Services by President Zelensky. Patron has also amassed a dedicated following on social media. 

Also in May, the United States sent over canine body armor for the furriest members of the Ukrainian military. "Now, our four-legged helpers who will be serving in dangerous areas will also be protected," the Ukrainian State Border Guard said at that time.