A retired British military dog who stormed through enemy gunfire to save the lives of British Forces is set to receive the prestigious PDSA Dickin Medal for valour, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
During a dangerous operation in 2019 fighting against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Kuno, the heroic three-year-old Belgian Shepherd Malinois, and his handler were deployed in support of specialist UK and host nation forces on a compound raid against enemy forces when they came under attack.
The specialist force team was unable to advance due to being pinned down by grenade and machine-gun fire from an Al-Qaeda insurgent.
The heroic Kuno was sent in and without hesitation, charged through a hail of gunfire to tackle the gunman, breaking the deadlock and changing the course of the attack, completing the mission without any loss of life.
But during the heroic act, Kuno was wounded by bullets in both back legs. He was then given life-saving treatment by his handler and by medics in the back of a helicopter.
Kuno’s injuries were so severe he required several operations before he was stable enough to fly back to the UK. To prevent a life-threatening infection, part of one of Kuno’s rear paws had to be amputated.
After a lengthy rehabilitation programme to restore function to his nerves and muscles, Kuno, who was on his second deployment when he was injured, became the first UK military working dog to be fitted with custom made prosthetic limbs.
“Without Kuno, the course of this operation could have been very different, and it’s clear he saved the lives of British personnel that day,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said. “This particular raid was one of the most significant achievements against Al Qaeda in several years.
“Kuno’s story reminds us not only of the dedicated service of our soldiers and military dogs, but also the great care that the UK Armed Forces provide to the animals that serve alongside them,” Wallace said.
Kuno returned home aboard a Royal Air Force plane, receiving in-flight care from a Royal Army Veterinary Corps team.
After returning to the UK he was transferred to the Defence Animal Training Regiment in Melton Mowbray where he underwent extensive reconstructive surgery. After the surgery he began his rehabilitation under the care of Army vets, veterinary nurses and canine physiotherapists, assisted by staff from the University of Nottingham, just like injured service personnel.
Kuno’s custom-made prosthetics allow him to run and jump without impediment.
Kuno, who was trained to detect explosives, weapons, and disable enemies, will receive the PDSA Dickin Medal, the highest animal honour in existence for military animal valour, which will be formally presented by the PDSA, the UK’s veterinary charity who run the world’s most prestigious animal awards programme, in a virtual ceremony in November. Kuno will become the 72nd recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal.
PDSA Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said, “Kuno’s heroic actions undoubtedly changed the course of the mission and saved lives. He took on the enemy without fear or hesitation, never faltering from his duty despite being seriously injured. For his bravery and devotion to duty, he is a thoroughly deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal and we look forward to formally presenting his award later this year.”