Kuga - Dickin Medal

Kuga – PDSA Dickin Medal

The PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) Dickin Medal was created in 1943 to honour the work of animals in war and has been awarded to 71 individual animals.

It is regarded as the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, the most prestigious medal in the military. Kuga is the 71st recipient of the Dickin Medal.

Kuga, a Belgian Malinois breed, is the first Australian dog and first Australian animal since World War II to be awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal.

He was nominated for the award by the SASR soldiers of that Special Operations Task Group patrol for his extraordinary courage and dedication preventing them from entering into an enemy ambush.

Kuga and his handler were part of a Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) conducting a mission to capture a senior Taliban insurgent in the Khas Uruzgan district during their second tour together, on 26th August 2011. The unit began the patrol after landing by helicopter near a target compound and Kuga was instructed to search for concealed insurgents or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) located along the river’s edge.

Kuga detected an insurgent almost immediately upon commencing the patrol. Upon being released by his handler to investigate, he entered the water and swam across the river to the opposite bank, he was targeted and injured by bursts of automatic fire. His handler moved into position to support him while Kuga continued to swim, undeterred, by the close-range fire. After reaching the bank, he charged towards a small tree line where his handler was able to identify the enemy’s location and witnessed an insurgent firing at Kuga at close range. Kuga had crossed the river to expose an enemy ambush position. He bit the attacker on the arm, but the insurgent escaped by shooting Kuga, forcing the dog to release its grip. Kuga was shot five times: twice in the ear, once in the toe, once in the cheek (which exited through the neck) and once in the chest, which exited the shoulder and broke his upper-left leg. Kuga also received shrapnel wounds to his lower spine. Despite being shot during the action, Kuga continued to engage the enemy until being recalled by his handler. His handler initially called him and tried to coach him across, Kuga moved a little bit and sat back down. Then with a little bit more encouragement he hobbled down on three legs, back into the water and then swam down back across the river, back towards him.

Emergency first aid was provided and a helicopter medical evacuation was requested for him. Kuga was treated in Afghanistan and German before returning to Australia for further treatment and rehabilitation. Kuga passed away on 24 July 2012, likely as a result of stress and physical trauma associated with his wounds.

“If it wasn’t for Kuga’s actions that day in Afghanistan, his handler and the Special Operations Task Group patrol would have walked into the enemy ambush, with potentially devastating loss of life,” said Ms Reilly (founder of the PDSA Dickin Medal).

Kuga and the other military working dogs served in Afghanistan and saved countless lives, whether they were finding IEDs or tipping them off to an enemy presence before they would have seen them. Kuga’s PDSA Dickin Medal is for all the military working dogs who served in Afghanistan.

PDSA trustee Ms Mary Reilly presented the medal and praised Kuga’s drive and courage in the face of the enemy. The medal was formally presented to Kuga’s canine colleague, retired Military Working Dog Odin on Kuga’s behalf alongside Victoria Cross recipient Corporal Mark Donaldson VC.

“He’s the one who chose to go forward, he’s the one who chose to take bullets for both me and my mates. Ultimately that enabled me to come home to my family.”


  • Born – 23rd April 2007
  • Died – 24th July 2012
  • Began training with the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) in January 2008, aged eight months.
  • Deployments – Afghanistan – Operation Slipper