They don't just fetch, sit and catch, but they are trained to serve their country as well. They can hound criminals and sniff bombs. But the highly trained and decorated dogs that serve the Indian army don't go gently into retirement, with benefits and a slower life reminiscing about their days in service.
In a shocking response to a right to information query, the Indian Army has said that it euthanises its dogs and horses on retirement, or at any point when they are judged to be unfit for service beyond a month.
"Army horses and dogs are evaluated for their fitness with respect to the performance of duties. The animals which are considered unfit for one month active service are disposed of by humane euthanasia," the army said in its response.
The Indian Army uses Labradors, German shepherds and Belgian shepherds. The rationale given by retired officers TOI spoke with are two-fold: the upkeep of such dogs with the kind of facilities they enjoyed while is service will be expensive. And secondly, since they are familiar with sensitive locations while in service, it won't be safe to leave them in civilian hands.
By any stretch of imagination, these seem terribly flimsy premises to kill dogs the moment they are unfit, particularly after a life time of service to the nation.
Animal rights activists are justly upset that the army is "playing god". "Animals cannot be tossed away like empty ammunition shells. It is unfortunate that the dogs are euthanised," PETA India CEO Poorva P Joshipura told TOI.