Military dog who lost leg in Afghanistan awarded animals' Victoria Cross

Lucca the German Shepherd served in more than 400 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan

Charlie Atkin
Tuesday 05 April 2016 16:25
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Dog awarded Victoria Cross for animals after losing leg in Afghanistan

A military dog has been awarded the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, after losing a leg while sniffing out a roadside bomb.

Lucca, a 12-year-old German Shepherd, served in the US Marine Corps for six years, taking part in more than 400 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Her efforts to protect the lives of troops by sniffing out munitions led to her being given the Dickin Medal, awarded by the British animal charity, the PDSA.

It is the highest award for animals serving in military conflict and Lucca is the 67th animal to be honoured in this way.

Lucca, who is the first US Marine Corps dog to receive the medal, helped ensure there were no human casualties during any of the patrols she took part in.

The 12-year-old was retired in 2012, after she lost her leg and suffered chest burns while discovering a home-made bomb in Afghanistan.

Lucca with her owner Gunnery Sergeant Chris Willingham

Her owner, Gunnery Sergeant Chris Willingham, who travelled to London with his pet to accept the medal, said "Lucca is very intelligent, loyal and had an amazing drive for work as a search dog.

"She is the only reason I made it home to my family and I am fortunate to have served with her. Today, I do my best to keep her spoiled in her well-deserved retirement."

Jan McLoughlin, director general of the PDSA, said: "Lucca's 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."

Since its introduction in 1943, the medal has been awarded to 32 World War II messenger pigeons, 31 dogs, three horses and one cat.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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