Dog lovers come to the rescue and give retired K-9s a new home
NOT ALL DOGS are destined to become pets. Some of them, like Chika, Lotto and Marcia, were groomed to become heroes. They become military working dogs, also known as the K-9 (military term for canine).
Military working dogs play a large role in maintaining public safety and protecting society from threats made by lawless elements. Like human soldiers and police, their lives are always in danger, and many of them unfortunately become casualties of war and civil disturbance in the performance of their mission. And when they survive, some of them are made to work till the end of their lives or are retired after many years of service, with nowhere to go.
Enter Hound Haven – a group of dog lovers who are bent on saving these retired and injured dogs by providing them a second home where they can lead normal, canine lives. Their founders, Maxin Arcebal (chief executive officer), Chelsea Pecson (chief operations officer) and Addi Dela Cruz (chief marketing officer), together with Rachel Arcebal (treasurer) and Jerome Arcebal (corporate secretary) have started the Hound Haven Center in Angat, Bulacan.
Concern for K-9
Maxin Arcebal, in her early 20s, has always remembered her life being surrounded by animals.
“I grew up with cat and dog companions in our home,” she explained. “I have always been an advocate for animal welfare, and I was really thinking of starting something like what PAWS (Philippine Animal Welfare Society) or CARA (Compassion And Responsibility for Animals) would do.”
She recalled that Hound Haven was initially planned to function like an animal rescue shelter, but upon consulting family and friends, she decided to focus on retired K-9.
“A friend suggested that I help retired military dogs. I was moved by the kind of work they render for people’s safety,” she said.
People see many of these military and security agency K-9s at malls, airports and large-scale events beside their handlers. Some are trained for precarious activities like explosives or drugs detection, others for public safety like apprehension of suspects, and others for disaster-related work like search-and-rescue missions.
Overworked to the end
Maxin noted that an average K-9 works for 8 to 15 years. “That’s more than half of their life expectancy,” she said. “Like humans, they also come to a point when their senses are weakened as they get old. They are no longer as sharp or acute as when they were young. But some of them, like contract working dogs (dogs that are employed by private security agencies), are worked to the end of their lives.”
She added that there is currently no law or standard policy in the Philippines that provide military and contract service K-9s mandatory retirement the moment they reach a certain age. “In the United States, there is a law called Robby’s Law (HR 5314) which requires all retired dogs be placed for adoption.”
Sadder is the fact that many retired military dogs become caged animals. According to Army Sergeant Marlon Agena of the Philippine Army K-9 unit, “When they retire, they spend the rest of their lives in cages,” he said. “We walk them, we take care of them until their time comes.”
Addi Dela Cruz joined in after he was introduced to Maxin. Working in an advertising agency and at that time grieving the loss of a beloved pet dog, Addi found himself drawn to the idea. “I just lost a dog that was with me for four years,” he shared. “I joined Hound Haven thinking it is something noble, the idea of helping out retired K-9s. I wanted to help bring these dogs to a life of normalcy.”
“Ultimately, our goal is to influence public policy and establish laws to protect the rights and ensure the welfare of our country’s working dogs,” Maxin explained.
Drawing in from their personal money and raising funds from supporters, Hound Haven, which was incorporated as a non-stock, non-profit organization, inaugurated the Hound Haven Center in April this year. Partnering with the Philippine Army K-9 Unit, seven dogs were turned over to them. The center will be home not only for senior working dogs but also those deemed unfit for any type of service, where they will be assessed and cared for until they are adopted.
The 200-sqm center has spacious kennels, a dog clinic, dog training grounds, and even a swimming pool designed specifically for dogs, just to name a few of its amenities. The canine veterans also undergo a rehabilitation program designed by canine-training experts that will help the dogs adapt to human interaction, address any potential aggression from their experience in service, and prepare them for adoption to a loving home.
Care to adopt a hero?
They currently have seven residents, including 1 ½-year-old Lotto; 11-year-old Chika and 3-year-old Shyna (all Belgian Malinois), and Marcia, an Aspin or Asong Pinoy.
One of them is Lotto, a Belgian Malinois, who would have made a sterling career at the Philippine Army K-9 unit if not for a bad fall during event training. His right front leg was injured severely, requiring amputation. He was forcibly retired and the center is now looking for a suitable family for him.
Chika has had a long career in explosive detection, and has made Boracay a safe tourism destination due to her conduct of intensive searches. Now retired, she is highly trained for obedience, so better have those dog treats to give her as reward.
Marcia, on the other hand, is a proud Aspin or mixed-breed. She was one of the few lucky Aspin dogs that were primed for K-9 service. She is proof that every dog can be a hero, regardless of breed.
Those who have a heart for these heroes can help through donations in cash (for the upkeep of the center, veterinary and utility bills, salaries for dog handlers) or in kind (pet supplies like dog food, environment-friendly dog shampoo, dog beds, etc.). One can also become an institutional sponsor or adopt a dog.
“We all need the help we can get right now for them,” both Maxin and Addi said. “By showing compassion and care for these K-9s, we pay them back for their priceless service for our safety and security. Beyond the honor and prestige of a military medal, to become part of a loving family is the best reward that we can give them.”
Those who want to help Hound Haven can visit their website (http://houndhavenph.org); Facebook/Instagram: @houndhavenph; or email – firstname.lastname@example.org. Hound Haven Center is located at 353 Pinaglagarian Street, Bgy. Pulong Yantok, Angat, Bulacan.