NEWS | Oct. 26, 2008

New military working dog hospital opens

By Meredith Canales 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

Among Lackland's newest buildings is the $13 million Department of Defense Military Working Dog Veterinary Service Hospital, which opened Oct. 21.

"The military working dog veterinary service is the supporting organization for the 341st Training Squadron, which is the unit the Air Force uses to run the dog program," said Director Col. Robert Vogelsang. "The Air Force is the executive agent, and it is responsible for acquiring, training, and distributing the dogs; but the Army is the only branch that has vets, so we provide the veterinary care."

Colonel Vogelsang said Army veterinarians are responsible for doing the medical evaluations of the military working dogs.

"The Air Force will evaluate their abilities, their drive and intelligence," he said. "Then we look at their hips and elbows and examine them and take blood work to make sure they're otherwise healthy. When the trainers and evaluators are happy with the dog, and we're happy with the dog, they go through to training."

Though Lackland has long had a military working dog hospital, the old one was so badly in need of upgrades that it made more sense to build a new one.

"The original hospital was built in 1968. Over the years, it got a couple of little additions to support the mission, but as the program grew, the technology grew and the medicine got more advanced. It got to the point, especially with the Global War on Terrorism, that there was quite an increase in the need for these dogs," said Colonel Vogelsang.

The hospital staff have been working in the new building since mid-June. "The building is approximately 30,000 square feet," said Colonel Vogelsang. "The administrative side takes up 7,000 square feet, and 23,000 square feet is devoted to the care of the dogs. The entire building cost about $13 million, with $10 million coming from the Air Force for the structure itself and $3 million coming from the Transportation Security Agency, which also has a big presence here at Lackland."

Though the hospital provides health care for dogs and not humans, the technology available in it is state-of-the-art.

"We have a very high-tech facility here," said Colonel Vogelsang. "When we got our CT, it was actually better than the one at Wilford Hall. I don't know if they've gotten a better one now, but between the Air Force and the TSA, we have a very nice facility."