Dog harness: Kuga

Dogs have been used by the Australian military to perform a variety of tasks, from running messages in the First World War, to mine detection in the Korean War, and tracking enemy forces in the Vietnam War. Today, Australian Defence Force military working dogs perform a number of roles, including explosive detection, tracking, and apprehension.

Kuga was a Belgian Malinois serving with the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR). On 26 August 2011, during his second tour of Afghanistan, Kuga and his handler, Sergeant J., were part of a counter-leadership mission targeting a senior Taliban commander near Khas Uruzgan. Shortly after being inserted by helicopter, Kuga was sent forward to search for insurgents and improvised explosive devices. Detecting something on the opposite bank of a river, Kuga swam through the water while under fire. Reaching the opposite bank, he charged an insurgent, biting his arm and only letting go after the insurgent shot him with his AK-47 rifle.

Kuga had been shot five times, one of the bullets breaking his front left leg. Kuga managed to swim back to his handler, was given emergency first aid and evacuated by helicopter for further treatment. After treatment in Afghanistan, Germany and Australia, Kuga rejoined the SASR kennels in Perth. His wounds were too great, however, and he died on 24 July 2012.

On 26 October 2018, Kuga was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal. Introduced during the Second World War by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, the Dickin Medal is regarded as the highest honour that can be bestowed on an animal, and is often referred to as the animal Victoria Cross. The harness worn by Kuga while serving in Afghanistan was donated to the Australian War Memorial in 2018.