.     New figures confirmed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) reveal that 68 dogs were put down in 2009, 117 in 2010, 84 in 2011, 71 in 2012, and 30 between January and July of this year.

The majority, 117, were put down due to “age and welfare” reasons, 76 due to arthritis, 42 due to “dangerous temperament” and 27 because of cancer-related problems.

The Press Association also revealed that 4 were killed in action in Afghanistan.

The MoD added that since 2009, 419 retired dogs were successfully rehomed.

A spokesman for the MoD said: “The MoD has a moral and legal duty to ensure the welfare of our animals and only put down those dogs that cannot be rehomed. We announced in September that we would review our existing policy to ensure that consistency across the MoD.

“Military working dogs play an invaluable role on the front line helping to save the lives of our armed forces and local residents in Afghanistan. Dogs are afforded as much protection as possible and handlers are specifically trained to minimise the risks that dogs face in performing their tasks.”

Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton and chairman of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, said: “Dogs employed in our armed services demonstrate commitment to their handlers and bravery on a daily basis and have undoubtedly saved the lives of countless servicemen and women. We have a duty of care for their well-being as real as the military covenant.

“Although I think that most people will understand that it is not always possible to rehome all ex-service dogs, I think it is vitally important that we make sure that none of the 117 dogs that were put down because of ‘age and welfare’ reasons since 2009 were done so out of expediency and that every effort is made to rehome ex-service animals.

“The Government has stated that there are no time restrictions on a dog being kept while a suitable home is looked for and I hope that the Ministry of Defence bears this in mind.”

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