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Local Groups Back National Move To Find Four-Legged Soldiers Forever Homes

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By Elizabeth Hur

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There are unsung heroes in every war.

But now, some vets are making sure our four-legged soldiers are getting the recognition they deserve.

It’s part of a movement to find new homes for military dogs.

Chris Shields of Northeast Philadelphia calls the decision to adopt Bronco, a no brainer.

“He came running right over to me. He knew exactly who I was,” Shields recalled.

Rightfully so, as members of the U.S. Navy, the two were battle-mates in Afghanistan.

At the time, Bronco was four-years-old. Today is he is 12.

We met them through a Philly-based group, No Dog Gets Left Behind. We also met former Marine, Ron Aiello through an organized he founded, United States War Dogs Association based in Burlington, NJ.

Aiello explained, “I was in Vietnam back in 1966-67 with my dog Stormy. I still think about my dog every day.”

Both are advocates of the “National Defense Authorization Act of 2013″. It’s a law designed to provide care for retired military dogs.

“Signed into law over a year ago now but it has not been implemented in anyway,” Aiello added.

So on Wednesday, supporters traveled to Washington D.C. to hold Congress accountable.

We’re told, the U.S. Military keeps about 3,200 dogs in combat zones and on average, 10 percent of them retire each year. The goal, they say, is to return the dogs to their former handlers. But for some, it’s impossible because it’s too expensive.

Aiello said, “They retire them because they do have health issues.”

“He did two tours in Afghanistan. We went out and did narcotics and patrol. He would go until he physically couldn’t go anymore,” Shields added, “Nobody is going to insure a dog with hip dysplasia, allergies, skin conditions and PTSD.”

Shields, alone, spends hundreds a month on Bronco’s medical bills. But he calls their bond, priceless.

His hope now is with support from the public, more hero handlers can provide a forever home for their combat partners.

Aiello explained, “Yes, call and write to their representatives and asked them to tell the DOD/Secretary of Defense to implement these two section of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, section 371. That our Retired Military Working Dogs need their Veterinary Care and their transportation from overseas taken care of now.”

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