ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A former bomb-sniffing Army canine belonging to a veteran isn’t allowed at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Albuquerque, even though the dog is a veteran too.
Puma was an explosive detection canine that served two deployments in Afghanistan.
“Puma served seven years in Fort Leavenworth and that’s where he retired from,” says Lani Singh.
Now he’s living the retired life with his handler, Lani Singh, an Army veteran herself, who’s going through chemo-treatments at Heroes Hall for breast cancer.
Originally from Northern New Mexico, Singh rented an Albuquerque apartment to avoid the long commute. Now, Singh is struggling with the rules of the hospital when it comes to bringing her fellow vet to her appointments.
“He is a veteran, but because he’s a dog veteran and not a human veteran, he’s not allowed at Heroes Hall,” she says.
A VA Hospital spokesperson says service dogs are allowed at the hospital but military dogs are not recognized as service animals. To Singh, Puma has served his time and deserves to be recognized as a veteran with the privileges that go with it.
“They know everything we know. They’ve done everything we’ve done,” she says.
Singh believes it’s because he’s been military trained and has been trained to attack. However, she says he’s 12 years old, blind and lost hearing from the gunfire.
“He just absolutely loves veterans. He knows,” she says.
After going through extensive training just to adopt Puma, Singh believes she’s more than capable of handling him at the hospital.
“I’m sure I could be trusted to take care of him at Heroes Hall,” she says.
Singh has two more months of chemotherapy at Heroes Hall. She’s hoping the hospital can change the rules to make an exception for Puma in the meantime.
Singh says as part of the contract she signed with the Department of Defense to adopt Puma, she’s not allowed to turn him into a service dog.