Concerned that a soldier’s best friend lacks protection against chemical and biological weapons, the Pentagon wants portable weapons of mass destruction (WMD) shelters for military working dogs.
Military dog handlers and Military Working Dogs (MWD) often will be the first to enter an area contaminated by WMD. But while the human handlers have protection against chemical weapons, the military dogs don’t, according to the research solicitation published by the Department of Defense’s Office for Chemical and Biological Defense.
“Handlers have access to a wide array of personal protective equipment (PPE), developed, improved and deployed for decades; however, there are very few PPE options for MWDs,” warns the solicitation. “Most, if not all, currently fielded protection systems, like the Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection (JECP) Shelters require a significant logistical footprint including electrical access and complex active filtration.”
“For certain critical missions demanding a high degree of maneuverability and general readiness, it is highly desirable to have innovative MWD shelters with much lower logistical requirements and convenience elements such as portability, air filtration and expansion for future requirements,” the Pentagon adds.
Not your average dog shelter
Therefore, the Department of Defense wants a portable, collapsible dog shelter light enough to be carried by one soldier, but strong enough to shield canines from nerve gas and other deadly chemical weapons.
The shelter would offer protection against a frightening list of chemical and biological dangers that threaten dogs and humans alike.
“The shelter should be capable of filtering particulates and adsorbing a wide range of chemical warfare agents such as (but not limited to): nerve agents—tabun (GA), sarin (GB), soman (GD), VX; mustard agents—H, HD, L; tear agents— CN, CS, CR, OC; blood agents— hydrogen cyanide (AC), cyanogen chloride (CK), arsine (SA); chlorine, phosgene, chloropicrin (PS), and diphenylchloroarsine (DA),” the solicitation said.
The shelter would weigh no more than 22 pounds, and ideally more than 12 pounds, including batteries and air filters. Yet it should be big enough to safely house a dog of at least 75 pounds, and preferably up to 120 pounds. It must be able to filter enough air using commercially available air filters to sustain a dog at rest or one panting from exertion. Meanwhile, it has to maintain a dog-friendly temperature of 45 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 30 to 70 percent relative humidity for up to four hours, even when the outside temperature soars to 105 degrees.
These requirements alone might be challenging for a human shelter. Yet because the users are dogs, there are some additional safety considerations.
The shelter must be “safe to the touch for canine and handler (e.g., no sharp edges, exposed moving parts, and potentially hazardous protruding parts); safe for the sheltered canine (e.g., resistant to scratching/biting, no toxic components, no risk of physiological harm/stress); and a system to notify handler of any unexpected risks to the canine are of interest,” the Pentagon specifies
And what about the biggest issue of pet ownership? Systems that address “health concerns related to animal waste” will be “of interest, but not required,” according to the solicitation.
Phase I of the project calls for the submission of a feasible design, followed by a Phase II prototype. The technology may also be suitable for military working dogs operating in hazardous environments, including law enforcement.