An SAS soldier has slammed the military for destroying nearly 1,200 combat dogs.
The sergeant says more should be done to stop so many being put down once they have outlived their usefulness.
The veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, who is one of several special forces dog handlers, said: “These incredibly brave dogs have saved the lives of a lot of soldiers.
“It’s absolutely tragic that they are being destroyed at the end of their working lives.”
Army veterinarians killed 380 from 2013 to 2019, Freedom of Information requests obtained by the Sunday People show.
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And 807 were put down between 2002 and 2012.
Many were classed as too dangerous to rehome.
Others were “old and worn out”.
Some fit dogs died for “failing to maintain standards” and “welfare reasons”.
The soldier added: “Not all dogs can be saved – some are just too dangerous.
“But a lot more could be kept alive.
“Most only have a few years left anyway.”
The dogs, often Belgian Malinois, now join troops on most missions and can even parachute strapped to their handler.
Dubbed fur-guided missiles by troops, they can hunt down terrorists and retrieve injured men from the battlefield.
In Afghanistan, four won the Dickin Medal – the animal version of the Victoria Cross, including labrador Sadie, who saved lives by spotting a bomb in 2005.
Also honoured were Treo, a lab who found roadside bombs in 2008, and Theo, a springer spaniel who found 114 bombs and gun caches.
In the US, a law was passed in 2000 to cut the number of army dogs put down.
Animal welfare charity the Dogs Trust said: “We are opposed to the premature euthanasia of working dogs when retired or no longer able to perform their duties.”
The Army said: “A dog is only euthanised if it poses a risk to public safety or has a medical condition causing unnecessary suffering.
“Every effort is made to rehome them at the end of their service life.”