Objectives

  • Raise public awareness of AHA’s mission to protect animals and focus attention on the plight of retired canine heroes.
  • Inform the public about AHA’s goal to reunite Military Working Dogs (MWDs) with their handlers, and educate them about the health benefits of this mission for both the veterans and their four-legged friends.
  • Build nationwide momentum toward changes in government policy to ensure that these dogs will not be stranded abroad.

Challenge

Current military policy only allows active-duty canines to be brought to the U.S. on military aircraft upon completion of their services. MWDs retired in a non-combat zone overseas are ineligible to travel on military plans. MWDs retired in combat zones are eligible, but their transport is not guaranteed. Many are not repatriated.

Tactics

  • Tapped veterans to tell stories in their own words at a regional level, initially, to humanize their relationships with their canine companions and build personal connections within the community.
  • Arranged reunions between the retired MWDs and their former handlers at airports around the country, and invited local media to witness these reunions, through AHA and Mission K9 Rescue-funded and organized efforts.
  • Coordinated media events with airport authorities in advance of the dogs’ arrival to the port of entry, and prepared the former handlers in advance on fielding media inquiries.
  • Built on momentum of regional stories by securing media coverage for a national congressional briefing, “Military Dogs Take the Hill,” at the U.S. Capitol.

Results

  • Nearly 1.2 billion (1,194,075,066) online/print impressions and 114,806,798 broadcast impressions.
  • Congressional Briefing achieved national traction with USA Today, ABC News, Fox News and NPR.
  • Members of Congress reached out to AHA president and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert about making the changes necessary to facilitate the repatriation of MWDs and reunite them with their former handlers.
  • Legislation introduced for the COVER Act, which would establish a commission to examine the potential benefits of alternative therapies, including service dog therapy, for veterans’ PTSD.
  • Attracted interest and support from the private sector, including the announcement that Red Bank Veterinary Hospital would offer free specialty veterinary care to all retiring military working dogs and contract working dogs.
  • Received several thousand emails from people around the country wanting to adopt retired MWDs.