Animal Rights

Super Dog 'Cairo' Wore $30,000 in Equipment to Get Bin Laden

| by Alex Groberman

Cairo, the courageous dog who participated alongside Navy SEALs as they took down Osama Bin Laden during a daring mission, has become something of an American icon.

An obscure icon.

We don't have a picture of Cairo (the dog at the top left is just a guess) and -- at this point -- Cairo's breed is unknown. Based on other dogs used effectively by the military, many assume the animal is a German Shepherd.

Immediate reaction to the dog’s participation ranged from pride to anger (PETA was against it) to humor. Now attention is turning to just how well-equipped Cairo and other dogs like him are when they are sent into the field.

According to reports, the body armor adorned by the canine cost upwards of $30,000. This means that on top of being bulletproof and legitimately protected from unexpected attacks on his body, the dog's battle attire was worth more than what some actresses wear to Hollywood’s biggest award shows.

In 2010, military services spent approximately $86,000 on four tactical vests for a mere four Navy SEAL dogs. The body armor was crafted by the Canada-based K9 Storm, whose flagship product is the $20,000-$30,000 Intruder -- what MSNBC describes as the “upgradeable version of their doggie armor.”

Still, despite the gadgetry and whatever other equipment is provided, the key to success in a Bin Laden-like mission appears to be a healthy relationship between the dog and handler. Each dog receives one specific human handler, and in order for the two to effectively communicate in a given situation, connecting them is a must.

That’s the bread and butter of what K9 Storm does. They provide a high-definition camera, which gets mounted onto the dog’s back. That, in turn, allows the handler to see whatever the canine sees. The camera can automatically adjust to a number of factors, including switching to night vision automatically when darkness falls. Further, the lens of the camera is impact-resistant and the entire system is waterproof.

The armor, specifically, is slated to shield the dog from 9mm and .45 magnum gunfire. The main priority of the vest makers has always been to keep the armor durable but light, so that the dog can move freely.

Showing that every bit of the system is thought out, a silent hardware setup ensures there is no clanking sound from metal hitting itself as the canine moves.  

With their exposure at its highest point ever, K9 finds itself adjusting to orders. Its mainstay armor runs in the somewhat more moderately-priced $2,000 to $3,000 range.

Oh, and what about those titanium teeth?

That's a Web rumor that contains only a small amount of truth. The Navy doesn't outfit its dogs with "titanium fangs" as a rule, but it will replace a broken tooth (like a crown on adult humans) with titanium substance. So the idea that the Navy is ripping out normal-functioning dog teeth and replacing them with titanium fangs is false.

All in all, while reaction to the use of a dog in the effort to get Bin Laden was mixed, it was clear that authorities did everything in their power to make sure that Cairo went in with the same protection and equipment as any of the human soldiers involved.