The Working Dog Health and Welfare Act – introduced by Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) – has passed the U.S. Senate. The bill will support the safe and humane treatment of federal working dogs.
This bill is the first bill to pass the U.S. Senate in 2024.
“Working dogs” are used for the detection of explosives, narcotics, and missing persons, as well as serving in patrol and navigation capacities.
This legislation includes programs that detect abuse and neglect of these animals, as well as ensuring emergency medical care, exercise, food and water, rest and off-duty time, and medical needs after retirement.
“Federal working dogs, who work diligently alongside their human companions, risk their lives daily to ensure the safety of Americans,” Sen. Braun said. “As both a leader in the Senate for animal welfare and a dog owner, I am proud that this bipartisan legislation to ensure these animals are protected has passed the Senate.”
There are nearly 5,500 working dogs served in the federal government within 64 programs at eight departments and three independent agencies. Officials from these programs identified that the most common job for federal working dogs is the detection of explosives, narcotics, and missing persons. Federal working dogs also serve in patrol, navigation, and other specialty capacities.
In October 2022, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) cited 18 issues pertaining to the treatment of federal working dogs including lack of programs that detect abuse and the mistreatment of these animals in a report entitled “Working Dogs: Federal Agencies Need to Better Address Health and Welfare.” In addition, there is a lack of regulation pertaining to emergency medical care, exercise, food and water, rest and off-duty time which are critical to the well-being of federal working dogs.
The Working Dog Health and Welfare Act would ensure that federal agencies implement GAO’s working dog recommendations for existing working dog programs within 180 days of enactment. It would also require new working dog programs to proactively implement GAO’s recommendations.
Finally, the bill requires agencies to submit a report to Congress on the steps taken to implement GAO’s recommendations.