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By Charlie Powell, Tooth & Nail

Highly trained explosive detection dogs provided to Jordan by the U.S. State Department have been suffering and dying from neglect, malnutrition and poor working conditions.

Details of the atrocity came to light in a recent 32-page Inspector General of the United States probe available at this shortened link: bit.ly/2mpoGXJ.

Titled “Evaluation of the Antiterrorism Assistance Explosive Detection Canine Program – Health and Welfare,” the report investigated the Explosive Detection Canine Program.

The probe identified a range of serious problems and cited an overall lack of policies and standards governing the program.

Canines remain one of the best means of detecting explosives. That sounds great, until one looks at what is happening now that provision of the dogs is managed by a private contractor.

“The (State) Department routinely provides dogs … without signed written agreements that outline standards for minimum care, retirement and use of the canines, and the Department conducts health and welfare follow-ups infrequently and inconsistently,” according to the report.

So disheveled is the program, even after the audit, that no one knows the exact number and disposition of the animals sent to Jordan. At best count, about 89 were sent to Jordan, at least five times more than is estimated to have been sent to other countries.

The Inspector General report notes 28 dogs were provided after training by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. In 2016, the State Department discontinued using ATF because it established its own canine training program at a facility in Winchester, Va.

Known as the Canine Validation Center, it provided the other 61 dogs. The Department also contracted with a private firm in 2016 known as MSA Security to operate and manage the validation center. If you smell profits here, your nose is working well.

Under a memorandum of understanding, the Canine Validation Center is responsible for procuring dogs and holding handler courses for foreign students. A state department official estimated that a 30-day foreign handler course that includes the provision of 15 trained dogs costs approximately $450,000.

The validation center, operated by MSA, was also supposed to conduct in-country assessments to see what the conditions would be for the dogs and to determine program sustainability. They were also supposed to check on the health and welfare of the dogs provided. Little of that ever happened.

In July 2016, Jordanians become the first class to pony up the funds, get trained and be provided with dogs.

At the expense of space here, just know many of the dogs have suffered and died from disease, external parasites, malnutrition, heat stroke, dehydration and lack of proper medical care. They are not being blown up doing their jobs. Photos in the report will repulse and anger the average person.

As just one example, in July 2017, two of the dogs were returned to the U.S. in critical condition. One of the two was euthanized and the other took until April 2018 to be nourished back to a normal weight.

“A veterinarian told (the Inspector General) that the program in Jordan should have been shut down because of how badly the dogs were treated.” It wasn’t until November of 2018 that a full-time, Department-funded veterinary team was assigned to Jordan.

The report also uncovered the fact the State Department still does not have current information about the other dogs they have provided to partner nations.

Dogs that do this work are invaluable. They suffer enough as it is just doing the hard work they do. But this sounds a lot like a train ’em, deploy ’em, and cash the checks scheme.


Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email cpowell@vetmed.wsu.edu.

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