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Bartlett's bill to protect pooches

October 26, 2000

Bartlett's bill to protect pooches



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett Jr. to discourage euthanization of retired military dogs passed Congress Thursday night.

If signed by President Clinton, the law will allow Department of Defense dogs to be adopted by their handlers or other suitable people when they get too old to work.

Current law doesn't permit adoptions because of the risk of lawsuits. There's no guarantee the sometimes aggressive dogs wouldn't hurt someone.

Bartlett, R-Md., introduced the bill Sept. 27 after reading a story in Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper, about an 11-year-old dog named Robby.

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The Belgian Malinois has arthritis and has lost a few teeth. His handler at Quantico (Va.) Marine Base wants to adopt him.

But under current law, Robby must be sent to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to help train handlers until he gets too old and is euthanized. That becomes the fate of several hundred dogs a year, said Bartlett's spokeswoman Lisa Wright.

The law dates back to the 1940s, when dogs were classified as equipment, Wright said.

In 1997, Congress opened adoption for all federal government dogs except those in the military, she said.

"As a farmer, it just really struck (Bartlett) that this was horrible. These dogs deserve to be adopted," Wright said.

Bartlett went to visit Robby and introduced a bill that quickly passed the House.

"It was amazing for the House to rally around the bill," said Bartlett's spokeswoman Lisa Wright.

The Senate amended the bill to make it clear that the military can't be held liable for the dogs' actions.

To encourage adoptions, the Department of Defense must release an annual list of dogs that are retired and whether they were adopted.

The House approved the changes Thursday night, sending the bill to the president's desk.

Bartlett's challenger in the upcoming election questioned how the bill helps Bartlett's constituents.

"He's not elected to represent dogs. He's elected to represent the people of the 6th District. It's more a matter of priorities," said Democrat Donald M. DeArmon.

Bartlett responded by saying that many of his constituents are offended that the dogs are being euthanized.

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