Dogs dying from parvovirus, heat stroke, and renal failure caused by tick-borne disease. Dogs infested with fleas and ticks. Emaciated dogs living in feces-filled kennels and eating off the floor. The latest puppy mill horror? No. These have been the conditions endured by dogs trained in the United States and given to “foreign partner nations” to supplement their antiterrorism efforts—under a program financed by millions of US tax dollars.
In September, the State Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report documenting the unconscionable mistreatment of dogs sent overseas under the Explosive Detection Canine Program (EDCP). This situation came to light only after a whistleblower—Dr. Karen Iovino, a veterinarian who had worked for the private contractor that trained the dogs—raised serious concerns about their health and welfare.
For over 20 years, the State Department has been sending highly trained explosive detection dogs to foreign countries “to enhance the ability of their law enforcement to deter and counter terrorism.” The EDCP, however, has failed to properly monitor the recipient countries’ care of the dogs. In Jordan alone between 2008 and 2016, 10 dogs died “while others were living in unhealthy conditions.” Yet since then, the United States has supplied an additional 66 dogs to that country.
“The Department conducts health and welfare follow ups infrequently and inconsistently,” observed the OIG. The report noted that the program lacked policies, procedures, and written standards to ensure the health and welfare of the dogs, and no written documents were produced “until after a draft of the report was provided in June 2019.” No policies were in place for canine adoption or retirement, and the OIG expressed concern that dogs may be left in kennels at the end of their working lives. Working conditions and the quality of nutrition and veterinary care were discovered to be so substandard, in fact, that the dogs were unable to perform their jobs and “had lost the will to work.”
A huge debt of gratitude is owed to Dr. Iovino, who exposed these problems at great personal expense, and to the veterinarians interviewed for this report who shared their own concerns. Moreover, since the report’s release, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Finance Committee, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), vice-chairman of the Intelligence Committee, have written to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing deep concerns about the program and asking the secretary how he plans to remedy the problems.
It is shocking that a program this expensive and supposedly this critical to antiterrorism efforts is being run so haphazardly. AWI calls on Secretary Pompeo to respond fully to Senators Grassley and Warner, and we call on the appropriate congressional committees to schedule oversight hearings to ensure that all of the recommendations in this report have been implemented. Until then, the program should be suspended and all dogs returned to the United States. It is time to stop putting highly intelligent, trained, and, above all, innocent animals into situations where their lives are in danger, not from the work they do but from the poor care they receive.