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Service Dogs And Horses In Poland Could Secure Pensions Under Proposed Law

We may not often see them but we've long been aware that both police and military operations can involve specially-trained animals.

While it's hard not to admire the discipline of service animals when we see them, it's also easy to forget just how many are carrying out official government duties throughout the world.

Unfortunately, it seems that it's even easier to forget about these animals after they've fulfilled their duties and been retired. Between the strain they've developed on the job and the perception potential owners have when it comes to what they'll be able to do, this can put animals in a position that's both difficult for them and expensive for their carers.

That problem is at the heart of some new legislation in Poland and if it passes, life after duty should get easier for both animals with government jobs and those who look after them.

At the moment, there are at least 1,200 dogs and 60 horses currently employed by the Polish government.

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According to AP News, these animals are chiefly employed in police, border guard, and fire service organizations throughout the country and most of the dogs are German or Belgian Shepherds.

Each year, about 10% of these dogs and horses are retired and once that happens, they are simply given away.

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And the people they are given away to often think the dogs in particular would serve well as guards for their farms or other properties.

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However, Warsaw police dog handler Pawel Kuchnio said that retired service dogs almost always require medical care for issues such as strained hind joints that often proves expensive for their new owners.

Furthermore, animal sanctuary owner Slawomir Walkowiak told AP News that certain behavioral problems can emerge in animals that once held official posts.

As he put it, "The dog may suddenly remember that it was trained to bite and it will start biting, and when left alone at home it may demolish the couch because it needs to have something in its mouth."

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Walkowiak (not pictured) runs the nation's only dedicated shelter for retired service dogs and horses called "The Veterans’ Corner."

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This shelter hosts 10 dogs and five horses, one of which is nearly blind and in its late 20s. If it were brought to a regular stable, it would likely not survive for long.

Although he wasn't specific aboutt how much it costs to run a place like The Veteran's Corner, Walkowiak said costs run up into the thousands of zlotys per month. Considering that just one stable box in Warsaw can cost about 2,500 zlotys (or $650) per month, that's not necessarily surprising.

But considering that the average monthly salary in Poland is around 5,500 zlotys (or $1,400), it becomes easy to see how difficult it is to care for a retired horse.

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For this reason, Poland's Interior Ministry has proposed legislation that would give an official status and a retirement pension.

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According to AP News, the law would also uphold the unwritten rule that the service animal's handler has the priority option to keep them before they're put up for adoption.

The measure is expected to pass unanimously when it is introduced into Parliament later this year.

For his part, Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski has described the proposed law as a" moral obligation," saying, "more than one human life has been saved, more than one dangerous criminal caught thanks to the animals in service."

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It remains unclear exactly how much money each animal will be entitled to per month, but the amount is expected to help cover the aformentioned costs of caring for the animals.

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This is especially true in the case of the horses because the officer they're paired up with would otherwise be expected to cover these costs out of pocket if they elected to keep the horse after its retirement.

As Sgt. Katarzyna Kuczynska — one of these officers — told AP News, "These animals have worked for the state, they have done their jobs well and they should be entitled to health care and proper retirement — on green pastures in the case of horses."

h./t: AP News

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