In recent years this would be the highest gallantry award that an Army Dog has received for services rendered in Counter Insurgency operations.
A two-year-old Army dog named Axel was killed in the line of duty in Jammu and Kashmir on July 30 while taking part in a search operation with a Rashtriya Rifles Battalion and has been posthumously awarded the gallantry award Mention-in-Despatches.
In recent years this would be the highest gallantry award that an Army Dog has received for services rendered in Counter Insurgency operations. Appreciation awards such as the Chief of Army Staff Commendation Card and Vice Chief of Army Staff Commendation Card, which lie below gallantry awards like Mention-in-Despatch, have been commonly awarded to Army dogs for their excellence in duty in counter-insurgency operations.
The dog handlers, regular Army soldiers, are eligible for the gallantry medals. They have been awarded Shaurya Chakra and Sena Medal for gallantry while taking part in operations with their dogs. Mention-in-Despatches is also a gallantry award given in wartime actions and counter-insurgency operations for services rendered beyond the call of duty.
Axel was serving in the 26 Army Dog Unit in the Kashmir valley and was deployed in a search mission during an anti-terror operation being carried out by the 29 Rashtriya Rifles. At the same time, he was clearing the rooms where suspected terrorists were holed up, and one of the terrorists in hiding fired at him, leading to fatal injuries. A subsequent post-mortem of Axel conducted at the 54 Army Veterinary Hospital revealed that he had more than ten bullet wounds and a femur fracture.
Axel was honoured at a ceremony held by HQs 10 Sector Rashtriya Rifles, where wreaths were laid by the General Officer Commanding Kilo Force of Rashtriya Rifles and other senior officers. He was later buried on the unit grounds of 26 Army Dog Unit.
In a statement made in the Parliament in 2019, the Minister of State for Defence revealed that the Army had 25 full dog units and two half units. A full dog unit comprises 24 dogs, and a half unit has 12.
The Indian Army has various breeds of dogs in its dog units. These include Labradors, German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Great Mountain Swiss Dogs. Axel was reportedly a Belgian Malinois breed dog.
There are a variety of duties that Army Dogs perform, and these include guard duty, patrolling, sniffing explosives including Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), mine detection, sniffing contraband items including drugs, assaulting potential targets, avalanche debris detection as well as participating in search operations to locate hiding fugitives and terrorists. Each Army Dog has a dog handler who is responsible for the dog’s well-being and guiding it through the various tasks he is to perform.
The highest award for animals in military or police service in the United Kingdom is the PDSA Dickin Medal. It was instituted in 1943 by Maria Dickin, founder of People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) for any animal displaying conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty while serving with British armed forces or civil emergency services. The bronze Dickin Medal is embossed with ” For Gallantry” on one side and “We Also Serve” on the other.