UK vs US: How Are Military Animals Used?

In July, the Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC) celebrated 100 years with a parade through their home of Melton Mowbray.

They were marking nearly a century since the word 'Royal' was added to their name, in recognition for their service during the First World War.

More than 200 forces personnel were joined by 25 riders and 16 military working dogs and their handlers for the celebration.

But how does the way British forces utilise animals differ from the US?

The RAVC trains up to 170 dogs every year, which go on to serve in the military and police force, and 'produce' around 60 horses a year.

The dogs are trained for a range of specialisms, including protection, ensuring bases and military sites are kept secure, to detecting arms and explosives.

Dogs have been taught the skill of arms explosive detection for more than 50 years.

Although horses are no longer used in combat by the British military, they continue to play a large role in a ceremonial capacity.

Like the UK, the United States military uses animals in a range of roles.

At Kunsan Air Base, Korea, working dogs are used for security.

Meanwhile, at the US Defence School of Languages in Monterey, they have recently introduced a new type of military animal - the 'Morale Dog'.

Lingo US military dog
Lingo the dog - the best $130 of US Army money one Colonel says he's ever spent. (Picture: US Department of Defense).

Lingo, who is officially a Private First Class, has one job – to make people happy.

Colonel Phil Deppert said: "He’s the best $130 of Army money I’ve ever seen spent.

"The immediate mood boost… to anybody that crosses paths with Lingo is just that. It is immediate, it is positive and it is absolutely significant and a joy to watch."

The US military has vets who serve where their animals serve to ensure they are ready to deploy at any moment.

Major Shane Andrews, Commanding Officer of Okinawa Branch Veterinary Services, says:

"At any time if there is a conflict, or they are in need of their skills, whether it be patrol, narcotics, something along those lines, they can go to that particular area on that particular mission at a moment's notice."

US Forces Mountain Horses
Horses at the US Marine’s Mountain Warfare Centre. (Picture: US Department of Defense).

The US Armed Forces also use horses for a military purpose.

At the US Marine’s Mountain Warfare Centre, they "employ horses and mules as a way of transporting people, weapons and equipment across high altitude complex compartmentalised terrain".

While at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, they use horses to help natural conservation.

Staff Sergeant Zechariah Landa, Working Horse Patrol, says:

"We’re...enforcing hunting and fishing regulations...and protecting any kind of endangered species, animals or plants, that we have here at Vandenberg."

US Navy Marine Mammal Program
A bottlenose dolphin marks the location of a simulated sea mine during RIMPAC 2018 (Picture: US Department of Defense).

The US Navy trains sea lions and bottlenose dolphins as part of its Marine Mammal Program.

While the former locate and attach recovery lines to US Navy equipment on the ocean floor, the latter are trained to search for and mark the location of undersea mines.

Four countries are known to have had trained military dolphins - the United States, Russia, Iran and Ukraine.

The US Navy began working with these mammals in 1960 to help with mine detection and the design of new submarines and underwater weapons. 

America has been working with bottlenose dolphins at this year’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, where the animals were directed to seek out and mark simulated mines.

The military's relationship with animals has even included the avian variety - the French air force last year revealed it was training eagles to take down drones.

The birds can reportedly cover 200 metres in 20 seconds.

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