ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The United States Army announced today it has reached the final phases of training for approximately 5,800 Pocket Beagles in conjunction with Operation Safety Paws, a program designed to assist and protect troops in combat zones. The Pocket Beagles have been trained exclusively in explosive ordnance disposal and detection and will be deployed with the Army’s 71st Ordnance Group 79th Battalion which falls under the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosives, or CBRNE, Command.
Sergeant Major Phillip Dickerson, of the 71st Ordnance Disposal Group Command, spoke with WBAL, an NBC affiliate, regarding Operation Safety Paws. “We’ve been lucky enough to work with a great group of people from PETA who have done their part in providing us with rescued Pocket Beagles from puppy mills across the country. These animals are being given a second chance at life and the opportunity to protect our men and women in uniform.”
Judging from early reports on the ground, the rigorous training program is yielding positive results. An Army EOD unit assisting special operations forces near Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan late last year received twelve Pocket Beagles as part of a Joint Special Operations deployment package.
“Special operations forces were notified by members of the Afghan National Army of a potential roadside bomb on the outskirts of a town approximately one kilometer from their position,” Sergent Major Dickerson explained. “Army EOD operators approached the site from a safe distance and deployed five Pocket Beagles. The dogs were able to locate the IED, which judging by the blast, was a direct charge device in the neighborhood of 300 pounds.” Dickerson added that while all five Pocket Beagles were incinerated in the blast, they were credited with saving hundreds of Afghan and American lives.
This reporter spoke with Corporal Anita Campbell-Green who oversees the Army’s Pocket Beagle training program at Aberdeen Proving Ground. “Historically German Shepherds have been used for EOD operations but we’re finding Pocket Beagles are much more suitable for the task. They have the ability to get into hard-to-reach places that larger dogs struggle with, in addition to possessing above average intelligence and a keen ability to track,” Campbell-Green said. “Their size provides our servicemen and women with a tactical advantage in that they are able to carry up to three Pocket Beagles in pouches on their gear.”
PETA, working in conjunction with Joining Forces, a White House initiative launched by Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden in 2011, will be placing Pocket Beagles returning from combat tours into positions with local law enforcement agencies across the country. PETA spokesman Travis Coates adds, “This is an effort to assimilate the dogs with society and allow them to continue to serve the American public.”
Pocket Beagles who have sustained injuries during their deployment will be placed with Operation Delta Dog to assist other wounded veterans, particularly those suffering from PTSD. “By providing these dogs with the same opportunities and admiration we extend to returning servicemen and women, we uphold our commitment to the ethical treatment of animals,” said Coates.