The Pentagon debunked erroneous reports on Tuesday claiming the United States had abandoned dozens of “military working dogs” in Kabul while readying the final withdrawal from Afghanistan on Monday.
According to Eric Pahon, a spokesman for the Defense Department, news reports began to circulate during the final days of the withdrawal, with rumors flying around that the military had been leaving behind “dozens of caged service dogs.” A non profit rescue group, “Veteran Sheepdogs of America” had circulated the claim all over social media.
The photos that went viral on social media were ones from the Kabul Small Animal Rescue. The non profit has been helping animals in Afghanistan including aiding international adoptions for both dogs and cats as well as providing top-notch animal care by staff veterinarians. On Sunday, the rescue organization posted on Twitter that it was trying to evacuate animals in the cargo hold of planes leaving Kabul’s airport.
The animals were to be flown out as part of the group’s “Operation Hercules.” That work had been going on days before the viral images began circulating. The photos showed animals in crates in front of a damaged military aircraft stating the picture was taken at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The crate image and other photos had quickly been posted online by pundits and lawmakers critical of the U.S. withdrawal and for a way to slam Biden. Conservative activists pushed the photos citing the fate of military animals by circulating images and memes with their own hashtag on social media.
Not far behind, the American Humane Society released a statement about the dogs being left behind:
“I am devastated by reports that the American government is pulling out out Kabul and leaving behind brave U.S. military contract working dogs to be tortured and killed at the hand of our enemies. These brave dogs do the same dangerous, lifesaving work as our military working dogs, and deserved a far better fate than the one to which they have been condemned.
American Humane has worked hand in hand with the military for more than 100 years to rescue military animals… To that end, we call on Congress to take action to classify contract working dogs on the same level as military working dogs. Failure to do anything less in a failure of humanity and a condemnation of us all.”AHS CEO Robin R. Ganzert
The Defense Department, however, denies that any military service dogs or contracted animals were left behind in the country, and stated the animals had been under the care of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue and not the U.S. military. According to Pahon, the U.S. tried to assist the rescue as much as possible, however the priority of the mission was to evacuate United States citizens and Afgans.
“Kabul Small Animal Rescue told us they had a contract plane coming, but that flight never showed up or contacted us. All our working dogs left with their handlers. We would not leave them behind. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous.”Eric Pahon
Unfortunately, the dogs were not able to leave, and the dogs were released into the airport area while the founder of Kabul Small Animal Rescue was escorted safely back to the shelter – some seven miles away. Charlotte Maxwell-Jones hopes to return to the airport area where the dogs were released and find them again. Meanwhile dog food has been left out in the area.
On July 14, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suspended the transport of dogs from Afghanistan and 100 other countries with concerns of the re-introduction of rabies:
“Notice of Temporary Suspension of Dogs Entering the United States from High-Risk Rabies Countries.” Through this notice, CDC is informing the public that, effective July 14, 2021, it is temporarily suspending the importation of dogs from:
- countries classified by CDC as high risk for dog rabies; AND
- countries that are NOT at high risk if the dogs have been in high-risk countries during the previous 6 months.
An emergency exemption for the rescue dogs had been submitted, however the CDC has not complied even though the House of Representatives rebuked the CDC and subsequently passed an amendment to restore a proper screening process.
(Photo via Twitter screenshot)
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