On September 30th, Camp Lejuene, NC's breed ban on its military base will take effect -- forbidding pit bulls, Rottweilers and wolf hybrids from living in military housing -- as part of an initiative that began in 2009 to remove dogs of certain breeds from military bases.
The new rules were put in place in January, 2009, following a fatality at Camp Lejeune in May of 2008, in which a 3 year old boy was attacked and killed by his babysitter's dog. Due to hysteria that surrounded the incident (the news report ran on many national media outlets), the military began implementing bans on various bases. While Camp Lejeune put restrictions in place immediately, the full out ban will take place at the end of the month.
And not only is the military wrong in trying to ban breeds of dogs -- they are actually, likely making situations much less safe for their soldiers.
Something that has been gaining awareness now for several months is the problem of military suicides. In 2011, a total of 301 active-duty military personnel committed suicide. The number is up 22% this year, and July was the worst month on record with 38 soldiers taking their own lives. The military is now averaging one suicide EVERY SINGLE DAY within active military personnel. It's worse when it comes to veterans -- where 18 per day commit suicide.
The reasons for the increases in suicides is unclear -- although geopolitical issues and post traumatic stress disorder are two suspected causes.
It is estimated that 13-20% of the 2.6 million service members who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from PTSD.
Meanwhile, one of the best helpers they've found to help soldiers deal with post-traumatic stress? Dogs. And soldiers rave about dogs ability to help them deal with life after the war. And there are no shortage of positive stories on the subject. A couple of years ago, Time Magazine ran this extremely touching video of military veterans with their service animals telling some of the stories. I'm going to go ahead and imbed it here:
Interestingly, but not coincidentally, the first officer in the video chose a 'pit bull' as his companion.
I think it's really unfortunate that suicide is such a prevailing threat to our military personnel -- that dogs can help them overcome this very real threat -- and the military chose to ban certain types of dogs from military bases due to how they look -- based on a single, tragic, isolated instance. While tragic, the threat of the dogs taking military lives is almost invisible compared to the threat of them taking THEIR OWN lives. It's threat of one death in 5 years to one death EVERY SINGLE DAY. A threat that can actually be lessened by, get this, dogs.
It's a really short-sighted move by Camp Leguene and other military bases that are following suite -- and I hope they'll reconsider their position based on the needs of the dogs, and the soldiers they're claiming to want to protect.