When President Obama signed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act on the day before Thanksgiving, after originally threatening to veto it, he approved $607 billion in military spending and small yet meaningful changes to how the military handles its retired working dogs, guaranteeing them a return ticket to the United States at the end of their service.

Until now the military’s policies had resulted in dogs being retired in overseas kennels and sometimes being separated from their handlers in the adoption process. Under the language in the new law, introduced by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R., N.J.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), all military working dogs will be guaranteed a ride home on military aircraft and their handlers will be allowed to adopt them before anyone else.

The American Humane Association pushed for over a year to see the changes put into law. Prior to the passage of the law, the association spent up to $6,000 per case to bring retired military dogs home and reunite them with their handlers. Last year the charity brought 21 dogs back from overseas.

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