Multiple animal rights groups shamed the Biden administration for reportedly leaving military service dogs behind in Afghanistan. After the US government announced the last evacuation flights had departed from Kabul, photos of service dogs in kennels began surfacing online.
However, Eric Pahon, a Defense Department spokesman, told The Washington Post that the animals pictured were under the care of Kabul Small Animal Rescue, not the U.S. military. “To correct erroneous reports, the U.S. military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, to include the reported ‘military working dogs,’” Pahon said in a statement. “Despite an ongoing complicated and dangerous retrograde mission, U.S. forces went to great lengths to assist the Kabul Small Animal Rescue as much as possible.” But the priority mission, he said, was evacuating U.S. citizens, holders of special immigrant visas and “vulnerable Afghans.”
GardaWorld, a military contractor, confirmed to the Military Times on Tuesday that it had dogs in Kabul but did not specify how many. It said it would work with Kabul Small Animal Rescue to continue evacuation efforts despite “grueling” setbacks. “Our team has worked relentlessly with numerous dedicated charities to rescue our dogs and all the animals under KSAR’s care,” GardaWorld said in a statement to the Military Times [MSN].
Laura Sheehan, a spokesperson for the group American Humane, which collaborates with the U.S. military on animal aid and relief efforts, told The Post, “As far as we’ve been told, there were about 50 contract-working dogs left.” Sheehan said that “Those animals would be contracted to the U.S. military to provide support,” working security, patrol and explosive detection. Sheehan added, “Given the status of the contractor dogs, the U.S. government doesn’t view those animals as its responsibility” [AP].
The American Humane society’s President and CEO, Dr. Robin R. Ganzert, released a statement in response to reports of the abandoned dogs, writing, “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.”
Another popular animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), released a statement similarly condemning the administration’s inaction. Along with a petition calling President Biden to save the animals, PETA wrote, “Red tape and catastrophes have apparently wrecked every attempt to secure a flight out for these animals and their caretakers. While the cats and staff are reportedly safe for the time being, many dogs—including a pug belonging to an American Embassy worker—may have been let loose to fend for themselves on and around airport grounds.”