6 Apr 2016

Three-legged dog given 'highest award'

4:33 pm on 6 April 2016

Lucca, a retired US Marine Corps dog, has been given the "highest award any animal can achieve while serving in military conflict" by a UK veterinary charity, after losing her leg in 2012 while taking part in missions in Afghanistan.

The 12-year-old German shepherd was given the Dickin Medal in London by PDSA after she took part in over 400 missions during her six years of service.

On her final patrol, Lucca discovered a 13kg improvised explosive device and, as she searched for others, a second device detonated.

She lost her front left leg and suffered severe burns to her chest, but handler Corporal Juan Rodriguez was able to provide life-saving first aid.

Lucca's service protected the lives of thousands of allied troops, according to the US Marines, and her success was such that there were no human casualties during any of her patrols.

The medal was presented by PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin, who said her "conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty makes her a hugely deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal".

"Her ability and determination to seek out arms and explosives preserved human life amid some of the world's fiercest military conflicts," she said.

Lieutenant Colonel Abby DuBaree from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps said Lucca's story had "become famous in the US".

"Lucca's efforts and the expert work she carried out for allied forces deserves full credit and recognition. I know that every Marine and soldier that served alongside her will be thrilled to see her receive the PDSA Dickin Medal."

Since the medal's introduction in 1943 by PDSA founder Maria Dickin, it has been awarded to 66 animals involved in military conflict.

It has been awarded to 30 dogs, including Lucca, 32 World War II messenger pigeons, three horses, and one cat.