Legislative Action Center

GAO Releases Report on Federal Working Dog Health and Welfare
November 1, 2022 by AKC Government Relations


The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report on the health and welfare of dogs in federal working dog programs.  The report, Working Dogs: Federal Agencies Need to Better Address Health and Welfare, compiled data on the use of working dogs by federal agencies and provided recommendations for improvement.  

The report was prepared in response to a Senate directive, supported by AKC and the AKC Detection Dog Task Force, in the committee report for the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (S 4049) (Senate Report 116-236). 

The report identifies 18 key issues related to the health and welfare of working dogs ranging from routine veterinary care, food/water, housing, retirement, sanitation, grooming, procurement, exercise, abuse and neglect, and retirement, to rest and length of on-duty time. It studies parameters of the programs using dogs and provides recommendations related to each of the issues.

The report reviewed:

  • The number of working dogs used by federal agencies and their roles; 
  • The extent to which federal agencies’ policies address the health and welfare needs of working dogs; and 
  • The number of working dogs the government provides to foreign partners, and the standards to protect the health and welfare of those dogs. 

The report found that federal agencies utilize approximately 5,100 working dogs across a broad range of programs and functions. Federal contractors use an additional 500 working dogs.  

The Department of Homeland Security uses the largest number of dogs – approximately 3,000 –primarily for explosives detection. The Department of Defense uses approximately 1,800 for detection and patrol. Other agencies using working dogs include the Departments of State, Agriculture, Justice, Interior, Energy and others. 

Within the federal government, explosives detection is the most common role for a working dog. Twenty-six (26) programs report using dogs for explosives detection; 16 use dogs for narcotics detection, 11 for patrol, 9 for human detection, 5 for search and rescue, 4 for wildlife management and 2 for disease/pest surveillance, among other uses.    

View the full GAO Report Working Dogs: Federal Agencies Need to Better Address Health and Welfare   for more detail.  

To learn more about how AKC supports advancing the health, welfare, breeding and development of U.S. detection dogs, visit www.akc.org/edc


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