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Military working animal chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear protection and medical countermeasures.


Protection for animals used by the military is part of history. A prime example is the development and use of armor for horses in the 15th century. But it was not until World War I when chemical protection for service members was developed that chemical protection for military working animals (MWAs) was also addressed. For the US military, that consisted of bags or containers for pigeons and masks for horses and dogs. The idea then, and now, is to provide MWAs with the same level of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) protection as is provided for US service members. For pigeons and dogs the basic concept was the same; protection of the animal during the CBRN attack or incident so that it could go back to work after the "all clear" was sounded, or moved out of the threat or contaminated area. Horses could continue to work through a CBRN attack or incident if necessary. Masks only provided respiratory protection for dogs and horses, leggings provided lower leg protection for horses, eye and ear protection was included for dogs, and no protection was provided for skin. For medical countermeasures, the same drugs available for service members have been used. Unfortunately, little research has been done to prove what dose is effective. Other countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Czech Republic, and Israel had CBRN protection and medical countermeasures for their MWAs, and there is limited work continuing in some countries.


Since Roman times, pigeons have been used to deliver messages over long distances. In 1917, the US Army Signal Corps established a pigeon service. As the needs of the Signal Corps changed for the number of pigeons and employment, so did the designs for chemical protection. The Army Signal Corps worked with the Army Chemical Corps on the design and testing of various boxes and bags that would protect 2 to 4 pigeons and 12 to 20 pigeons. A small hand bellows (operated by the pigeoneers) and canister were part of the design to help force filtered air at specified time intervals into the bag or box (Figure 1). As communication technology advanced, the need for pigeons declined. The pigeon service was disbanded in 1957. (1)


In almost any conceivable theater of operations, situations arise where the presence of horse cavalry, in a ratio of a division to an army, will be of vital moment.

General George Patton (2)

In contemplated operations in mountainous terrain, plans should include facilities for supply by pack train.

General Omar Bradley (2)

Horses and mules have, of course, been used throughout history as work animals, both in agriculture and normal transport, and on the battlefield. The earliest recorded use of horses in warfare occurred in Eurasia (modern day Ukraine, Hungary, and Romania) in the era 4000-3000 BC. The versatility and adaptability of horses and mules for transportation of people, equipment, and supplies over various terrains is well known. Because of these qualities, US forces have used horses and mules in the Afghanistan theater of the war on terror. Horses are still routinely used by city and state police forces for crowd control and daily law enforcement activities.



The first horse gas mask was developed during World War I. The technology of the day used several layers of cheesecloth following the same line of thinking as that which had Soldiers cover their nose with a handkerchief.

However, covering only the nose left the horse's eyes, legs, and skin vulnerable to chemical agents. It was believed at the time that eye protection was not needed for chemical agents (lachrymal gases). The design and material of the US M1-M3 series horse gas mask closely resembled the feed bags used for grain for horses and mules (Figure 2), thus many horses chewed holes in their gas masks. By World War II, the design had been changed and 2 different types of horse mask were manufactured, one for cavalry and one for the pack and artillery horses and mules. The difference between the designs was that the cavalry horse had 2 canisters on the right side of the neck (to balance the weight of the rifle on the left shoulder), and the pack and artillery version had one canister on each shoulder (Figure 3). Eye protection and lower leg protection were also added during this time. Motorized, mechanized, and aviation advances began replacing horse cavalry, pack, and artillery units. The horse gas mask program was almost canceled in 1943. However, as the war continued and horses and mules were transported by air into the China-Burma-India theater, the requirement to provide oxygen to animals in unpressurized airplanes became a major concern. In 1950, the Army determined that there was indeed a requirement for animal oxygen masks. As a result, in 1951, the Army modified the horse gas mask to function as an interim solution for an oxygen mask for flights in unpressurized airplanes. (3) In the same year as the pigeon service was disbanded (1957), all horse units were deactivated, and the horse gas mask program cancelled.



Dogs are man's best friend at home, and in battle. Unlike pigeons, horses, and other land animals used by the US military in the past, the military working dog (MWD) remains a vital part of the US armed forces. The first record of a dog in battle is from the Stone Age, a type of mastiff used in Tibet. (4) Since then, various breeds and sizes have served a variety of functions from detection (explosives, narcotics, mines), patrol, sentries, messengers, casualty finders (search and rescue), and trackers to suicide bombers and even cigarette delivery dogs in World War I. As with the other 4-legged military working animals (ie, horses), CBRN protection for dogs was first developed during World War I. Lessons learned during development of the horse gas mask helped pave the way for the first dog gas mask with a few differences in design, in particular provisions for eye and ear protection (Figure 4). As with the horse gas mask program, not much work was done between World Wars I and II. After 2 years of development, the M6 (Figure 5) was ordered in 1944 for all dogs going into theater. After World War II, the M6 was not produced. In the mid 1960s, the Army Provost Marshall General validated the requirement for MWD chemical protection and requested the restart of M6 manufacturing or development of a suitable replacement item. This request included the investigation of collective (whole body) protection rather than only a mask (individual protection). However, in 1969 the dog mask program was declared obsolete, despite the nonconcurrence of the Army Provost Marshall General.



Over the past 90 years, MWA CBRN protection development has only occurred when the threat dictated changes for service member CBRN protection. Presently, no CBRN protection for MWDs is available in the DoD system. The late 1960s concept that collective (whole body) protection is the best way to provide MWD CBRN protection is the main focus of today's protection development programs.

Great Britain has developed a 2-dog overpressurized protective shelter called FIDOS (Field Inflatable Dog-Kennel Operational Shelter), the specifications of which are proprietary to the British Secretary of Defence. The FIDOS was deployed to Iraq at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency funded 2 small business innovative research projects in 2008 specifically for developing MWD CBRN collective protection. This is the first time in recent years that a US agency has specifically funded research and development for MWD CBRN protection. In a separate effort, the US Army Natick Soldier Center is working with a fabric for passive CBRN filtration. The advantage of passive CBRN filtration is the requirement for little or no power for CBRN protection, unlike the current US systems that require overpressure, special filters, and increased power. The collaboration of Natick, the industry partners, Army and civilian veterinarians, and US MWD handlers developed 2 prototypes using this technology. One prototype fits over an extra large varikennel, and the other is fold-out/popup prototype designed to be used during patrol or when away from other immediate protection. These prototypes are still in early development and require physiological parameter simulation and testing before the next stage of development. A CBRN collectively protected tent or shelter is required for the provision of veterinary medical care to MWDs in a CBRN environment. The Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection (JECP) capabilities development document was approved in July 2008. It has specific language regarding the requirement to treat MWD casualties in a CBRN protected environment. The JECP program is in the test and evaluation stage of development.


Although torso/body protection from projectiles/ explosives has long been standard for Soldiers, neither the DoD MWD Program Manager nor the DoD MWD Veterinary Service approves the use of ballistic vests or any type of body armor for MWDs in today's operating environment. This is because of the resulting increased heat stress and decreased mobility.


The provision of MWA medical treatment in a CBRN incident has been focused on the questions of what was humane for the animal, and would the animal be able to work after decontamination and treatment. As with CBRN protection, new CBRN drugs were developed when the threat to service members changed. Dr Jonathan Fradkin, a retired US Army Veterinary Corps officer, headed a group of veterinary toxicologists and internal medicine, critical, and emergency care specialists to determine the dosage of drugs available for US service members to use for MWD nerve agent treatment:

* Antidote Treatment, Nerve Agent Autoinjector (ATNAA)--atropine and 2 pralidoxime chloride in one autoinjector (replaces the MARK I Antidote Treatment Kit, Nerve Agent)

* Atropen (atropine)

* Convulsant Antidote for Nerve Agent (CANA)--diazepam

The group's recommendations, incorporated into Army Field Manual 4-02.18, (5) are based on extrapolations from human data rather than animal data. No research has been funded to prove or disprove the recommendations or evaluate a MWD's ability and effectiveness to work after CBRN treatment. In 2007, Army Supply Bulletin SB 8-75-S7 (6) included MWD initial issue requirements for ATNAA, Atropen, CANA, Skin Exposure Reduction Paste Against Chemical Warfare Agents, Reactive Skin Decontamination Lotion, doxcycline, and ciprofloxacin. In conjunction with the inclusion of the MWD issue list in SB 8-75-S7, a MWD handler's guide for using medical chemical defense material should be available in March 2009 (National Stock Number: 7610-01-564-2341).


Approximately 30 years passed between the development of the M1 horse and dog gas masks and the M4 horse and M6 dog gas masks. Over 40 years ago, both programs were declared obsolete. Although CBRN protection has come a long way from the days of handkerchiefs and layered cheese cloth for both service members and MWAs, much remains to be done to protect, decontaminate, and treat if necessary, and address other MWA unique issues. New threats such as toxic industrial materials make CBRN protection, decontamination, and treatment items even more essential to have in the field, but also more challenging to develop. Part of the challenge is to ensure that DoD senior leadership recognizes the importance and continued relevance of MWAs in today's noncontiguous battlefield * environment as vital force multipliers and force protection assets. The requirement for CBRN protection, decontamination, and treatment has been documented in several CBRN defense functional analyses at the DoD level. However, specific funding to address these gaps is not a priority, nor is evaluation of which current treatment and decontamination recommendations; or use of equipment, drugs, or protocols developed for service members could be used for MWAs, with or without modifications. Discussions of this topic among academia, federal and state veterinarians, and other MWA stakeholders have produced agreement that the start of development of working dog CBRN equipment, drugs, and protocols will pave the way for the development of similar CBRN materiel and protocols for other animal species.


I thank Dr Jonathan Fradkin, DVM (MAJ (Ret), VC, USA) for his expertise and vision.

World War I and World War II photos are courtesy of the US Army Chemical Corps and the US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense historians.


(1.) Razes J. Pigeons of war. America in WWII. August 2007. Available at: stories/pigeons.html. Accessed January 15,2009.

(2.) Waller AL. Horses and Mules and National Defense [Office of the US Army Quartermaster General]. 1958. Army Quartermaster Foundation web site. Available at: Accessed December 12, 2008.

(3.) Walker RD. Military masks animals in chemical warfare [Gas mask museum web site]. Available at: Accessed December 12, 2008.

(4.) Lemish MG. War Dogs: A History of Loyalty and Heroism. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books Inc; 1996.

(5.) Field Manual 4-02.18: Veterinary Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures. Washington, DC: US Dept of the Army; December 2004:chptr 5.

(6.) Department of the Army Supply Bulletin SB 8-75-S7. Washington, DC: US Dept of the Army; 20 July 2008:p5-3.

(7.) Field Manual 3-0: Operations. Washington, DC: US Dept of the Army; February 2008:chap5,p5-14.

MAJ Kelley L. Evans, VC, USA

* Noncontiguous areas of combat operations do not share a common boundary. (7)


MAJ Evans is Chief, South Texas Branch Veterinary Services, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
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Author:Evans, Kelley L.
Publication:U.S. Army Medical Department Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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