Questions remain as Pentagon affirms no military dogs were left in Afghanistan

Live at Five
Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 12:13 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Questions continue to circulate regarding the fate of dogs that were pictured left on the tarmac at the Kabul airport while troops completed the evacuation in Afghanistan as the Pentagon confirms that no dogs left were under military care.

American Humane said on Monday that the Department of Defense had left military contract working dogs in cages on the tarmac of Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“I am devastated by reports that the American government is pulling out of 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,” said American Humane President and CEO Dr. Robin R. Ganzert. “This senseless fate is made all the more tragic, as American Humane stands ready to not only help transport these contract K-9 soldiers to U.S. soil but also to provide for their lifetime medical care.”

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby stated on Twitter on Tuesday that there were no military dogs left in Afghanistan, instead, the dogs pictured on the tarmac were from Kabul Small Animal Rescue.

The Department of Defense Spokesman said all military dogs that were in Afghanistan left the country with their handlers.

However, questions regarding contract working dogs not being evacuated continue to circulate. Contract working dogs are trained by private contractors, not the government, for military operations.

The DoD Spokesman said the Kabul Small Animal Rescue chartered a contract plane to pick up the contract working dogs, but it never arrived. The fate of those dogs is currently unknown.

The International SPCA said on Tuesday that Charlotte Maxwell-Jones, founder of Kabul Small Animal Rescue, and partners have continued to work tirelessly to evacuate Maxwell-Jones and the 130 dogs in her care from Afghanistan. The ISPCA’s last contact with Maxwell-Jones was around 3 p.m. EST on Monday, Aug. 30.

According to the international organization, despite being at the airport during the ISIS-K bombing on Aug. 26 and facing a variety of threats, Maxwell-Jones is now off the Hamid Karzai International Airport grounds in Kabul. On Aug. 30, it said she was forced to leave the airport with a single puppy under her arm as final military evacuations occurred. She was escorted by the Taliban back to Kabul Small Animal Rescue, 7 miles outside the city. She remains in the shelter and is safe for the moment.

ISPCA said as the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was happening, Maxwell-Jones managed to successfully rescue 46 working dogs and several personal pets that belonged to fleeing American families. However, the majority of her staff and cats in their care were never granted access to the airport. They are safe in Kabul at a separate location for the time being.

Current information from ISPCA indicates that the fate of the 130 dogs that Maxwell-Jones was forced by the Taliban to abandon is still unclear, despite constant efforts to confirm their whereabouts.

According to ISPCA, in the end, dogs and their caretakers were never allowed to board military aircraft and numerous private charter aircraft that it had secured to accept the dogs were not granted access to the airport. Maxwell-Jones was informed that most of the dogs had to be released to the airport as it was evacuated, turning once rescued shelter dogs into homeless strays.

“We are heartbroken that the aircraft we secured to transport the rescued dogs of Kabul Small Animal Rescue out of Afghanistan were not ultimately allowed to take the animals and their caretakers safely out of the country,” said Lori Kalef, Director of Programs at SPCA International. “Our team has been working around the clock and has exhausted every possible option and resource we could in our mission to rescue the dogs before the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan. We’ll continue to do everything we can to evacuate Kabul Small Animal Rescue’s staff and animals from the country after August 31. We cannot thank our supporters enough for everything they’ve done to help the dogs and cats of Kabul and their caretakers.”

ISPCA said the dogs remain within the airport in an area used to house employees at the far end of the flight line. It has been unable to confirm the number of dogs released nor can it confirm whether the U.S. military evacuated the 46 working dogs that had been under KSAR’s care when they left. It continues to press for information, however, since the U.S. military has completely evacuated Kabul, information is harder to gather.

Moving forward, ISPCA said KSAR’s main goal is to return to the airport, when it is safe and with the hope of Taliban cooperation, to attempt to retrieve or re-rescue the animals that were released. The situation remains unsafe, but KSAR is hopeful that staff will be allowed to return to try to save the dogs. During her departure from the airport, Maxwell-Jones requested the U.S. military open the bags of dog food that she was able to bring and scatter the food in the area where the dogs had been released.

According to the ISPCA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently enacted a policy to suspend the transportation of dogs from Afghanistan and over 100 other countries into the U.S., which contributed to the hardships Maxwell-Jones faced. The policy came after a spike in false rabies vaccination records. An Emergency Exemption has been applied for so that Maxwell-Jones may leave with the dogs in the coming week, however, the CDC’s adherence to the import policy during this time of crisis has put both animals and people at risk.

“This entire situation is a reminder that when governments, including the United States, don’t recognize the human connection to animals, they put people at risk. If Charlotte and her staff had been allowed to take their animals – with the support of private animal rescue groups that had paid for and organized a charter flight – they’d be safe, and so would the animals. Now she’s still in Kabul, desperately working to bring these animals into a safer space,” said an ISCPA spokesperson. “While this was our last chance to evacuate the dogs from Kabul before August 31, we are not giving up. We’re currently pursuing options for transporting the dogs and cats out of Afghanistan after that deadline, and the funds we raised will continue to support the care of the animals in Kabul. SPCA International will continue to act as a conduit of information between KSAR and the public.”

The ISPCA said it urges the U.S. military not to forget the animals of Afghanistan or the people who care for them. The military has been asked to share the most up-to-date information regarding the dogs in the airport and to work with the ISPCA on options to remove Maxwell-Jones and the dogs after Aug. 31. It continues to as for support from the community as well. It said it will continue to work with Maxwell-Jones to use every means possible to send her funding and logistical support.

“I feel eternally grateful for our team, partners and all the government agencies that stepped up to lend their voice during this intense and difficult time. Charlotte’s courage and steadfast devotion to the rescued animals in her care and the tireless efforts of all involved animal advocates working around the globe is awe-inspiring,” said Zach Skow, founder of Marley’s Mutts. “We are dedicated to saving them and will continue to seek options to help her and the rescued dogs and cats to leave Kabul safely. They deserve no less.”

The DoD Spokesman noted the U.S. Military would never leave its dogs behind saying, “to suggest otherwise is ridiculous.”

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