The Dog Who Helped the U.S. Military Kill Bin Laden

It’s true: A dog was used in the Osama bin Laden raid. But remember, this canine hero is just one of hundreds of military dogs saving lives every day.

A dog like this helped Navy SEALs nab Osama bin Laden.
A dog like this one helped Navy SEALs nab Osama bin Laden. Photo: U.S. Air Force/Flickr.com

Osama bin Laden, founder of the Islamist group Al-Qaeda, was killed in a raid in Pakistan on May 2, 2011.

But did you know a dog was part of that mission?

It’s true. According to the New York Times, 79 commandos and 1 dog were involved in the raid on the sprawling compound in Abbottabad.

Few details exist, but an expert on these matters tells us the dog was likely one of 3 breeds.

Military Working Dogs

“The 3 breeds that are used today are German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois and Labrador Retrievers,” Ron Aiello of the United States War Dogs Association said in an interview.

Military working dogs (MWDs) can be extremely valuable in reconnaissance and search and rescue missions and in the capture of enemy forces.

In fact, military K-9s have even been known to be outfitted in camouflaged bulletproof armor and given high-tech, infrared night-sight cameras complete with camera systems. (These gadgets cost around $20,000 each.)

In the past, military canines reportedly assisted in the capture of Saddam Hussein as well.

Dogs Are Especially Helpful in Nighttime Missions

The covert raid on Bin Laden’s compound by the Navy SEALs “Team Six” took about 40 minutes.

“The military working dogs would give you an edge, especially on a night mission,” Aiello said.

“Visibility is not too good for the troops, even with night vision goggles, so this is where your dog is the asset, sounds and smell. The dog can hear sounds that a human can’t hear and is trained to smell explosives, such as IEDs [improvised explosive devices], booby traps — which a human can’t see.”

Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Holm, a military working dog handler, rewards Zasko after the dog identified homemade explosive materials hidden outside an abandoned building in Iraq. By: soldiersmediacenter
Air Force Staff Sgt. Jacob Holm, a military working dog handler, rewards Zasko after the dog identified homemade explosive materials hidden outside an abandoned building in Iraq. Photo: soldiersmediacenter

Starting in World War II

The U.S. military first officially used canines during World War II.

According to the website Olive-Drab, there was an immense increase in the number of dogs used by the military after the terrorist attackcs of 9/11.

The New York Times reports that around 600 of the dogs are now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Slate calculates that there are roughly 2,700 total in the U.S. military.

Today the K-9s of the armed forces are credited with saving untold thousands of lives in various conflicts over the past few decades.

John Burnam, author of a book called A Soldier’s Best Friend, says, “No one knows how many lives have been saved” by the dogs, but his guess is “many thousands, hundreds of thousands since World War II.”

Monument Planned

A Military Working Dog Teams National Monument is now in the works, awaiting funding for a dedication in 2012.

The memorial is slated to be on the grounds of the new Army Museum near Washington.

How interesting is it that a dog assisted in the Bin Laden raid? The New York Times says this special 4-legged service member is perhaps “the nation’s most courageous dog.”

But let’s not forget that this one dog is just one of hundreds of canine heroes who are filling critical needs and saving lives every day.

What to read next:

Let’s Salute Our Canine Veterans!

Dogs have helped in every U.S. war dating back to the Revolutionary War. Learn all about them here. See the article

Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Dave Baker, founder and publisher of Petful, is a journalist and editor who has worked at The New York Times and The Nation magazine. He was also part of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize–winning team at The Times-Picayune newspaper of New Orleans. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Petful is now based. A longtime advocate for pet food safety, Dave has been passionately tracking pet food recalls for the past 10-plus years, and more than 30,000 pet parents are subscribed to his recall alerts — which often arrive faster than even the recall alerts put out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Learn more about Dave and the rest of the Petful team here: Meet the Team.

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