Five dogs, two pigeons and a horse were honored for their service, both domestic and abroad, in a first-of-its-kind ceremony on Capitol Hill Thursday, drawing a standing-room crowd to a U.S. House of Representatives office building.
While most of the animals were honored posthumously, two living dogs stood tall as they were recognized for their accomplishment in securing the United States from threats. Members of Congress, the National Marine Corps League and the California-based nonprofit Angels Without Wings presented the Medal of Bravery to all of the animals, who served in every major conflict — World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
"This event will be the first of many ceremonies to come to honor our four-legged and winged heroes who had no voice and no choice but to still serve so valiantly our country in war and in peace,” said Robin Hutton, president of Angels Without Wings and also an author and the organizer of the award.
The Medal of Bravery for animals was inspired by the British Dickin Medal, which was introduced at the height of World War II.
"It acknowledges outstanding acts of bravery or devotion to duty displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defense units in any theatre of war throughout the world,” according to the Dickin Medal website.
Bucca, a black Labrador retriever mix, is a member of the New York City Fire Department and was crucial in solving arson homicides. He was named the top dog in the country in 2019 by the U.S. Police Canine Association's National Detector Dog Trials for accelerant detection. He joined the department after being a rescue dog.