NEWS
17/09/2019 9:23 PM AEST

Bomb-Sniffing Dogs Sent To Fight Terrorism In Jordan Are Dying From Neglect

At least 10 dogs have perished from medical problems. The State Department sent more, a federal report said.

Bomb-sniffing dogs sent by the US to help combat terrorism in Jordan are dying and suffering from extreme abuse and neglect by their foreign handlers, according to a federal investigation that covered several years.

Disease, feces-covered kennels, parasites and insufficient food, water and medical care are being blamed for the deaths of at least 10 Explosive Detection Canines (EDCs) given to Jordan over eight years, according to the report released last week by the inspector general’s office for the State Department.

Despite the findings and the IG’s recommendation that no more of the highly skilled dogs be sent to Jordan, the State Department has continued supplying the canines to the U.S. Middle Eastern ally via its Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Antiterrorism Assistance (DS/ATA), the report said.

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An underweight canine, left, and a dog's ear covered with engorged ticks are seen in photos taken in Jordan in April 2018.

“Since 2016, little progress has been made regarding the ability of Jordan to care for EDCs; in that time, however, DS/ATA has provided 66 dogs to Jordan,” the report said. The IG’s office said it “remains concerned that Jordan is not able or willing to provide adequate care for working dogs” without intervention by the US “and that any improvements that have been made were simply a reaction to pressure” from US officials.

Senator Chuck Grassley, in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, urged him to address the report’s concerns and detail what actions will be taken to rectify problems with the multimillion-dollar program.

OIG remains concerned that Jordan is not able or willing to provide adequate care for working dogs without the Department’s intervention."Office of Inspector General

“It is important for Congress to know whether the [Explosive Detection Canine Program] is operating effectively and efficiently and whether animals involved in the program are being treated according to the humane and ethical standards that the American people undoubtedly expect,” Grassley said. “The best-trained dog in the world is still ill-equipped to protect American interests if it is sick or starving.”

A spokesperson for the State Department did not immediately respond to a HuffPost request for comment on Monday.

A complaint to a hotline in July 2017 launched an evaluation of the EDC program the following May, according to the IG’s report.

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Photos taken in Jordan in 2017 show an underweight canine (left) and a canine needing its nails trimmed.

The review discovered instances of the canine handlers leaving food for the dogs on the floor, without bowls, in feces and dirt-covered kennels. Ticks were found embedded in the ears of some dogs, apparently for several days, and several of the animals were severely underweight. The majority of the dogs were also described as being well beyond their working years and in need of being retired and replaced immediately.

“Several canines were observed to have hip dysplasia and obvious arthritis, and have lost the will to work,” the report said.

The report went into detail about two canine deaths. Zoe, a female Belgian Malinois, was 2 years old when sent to Jordan in October 2016. She died of a heat stroke nine months later while working along the Syrian border with a handler who had not been adequately trained, according to the report.

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Zoe (left) and Mencey were among the dogs who died after being sent to Jordan as part of a U.S. State Department anti-terrorism program. Zoe died from a heat stroke less than a year after arriving in the country and Mencey died after contracting at least two diseases.

Mencey, a three-year-old male Belgian Malinois, arrived in Jordan in July 2017, the same month that Zoe died. Less than a year after his arrival, Mencey became severely ill and was diagnosed with a tick-borne disease. He was eventually sent back to the U.S. for treatment and diagnosed with a second vector-borne disease that caused renal failure, leading to his euthanisation in March 2018.

Dr. Karen Iovino, a veterinarian who until 2017 worked for a private firm that trains EDCs in Virginia, spoke out about the abuse allegations earlier this year after claiming to have received supporting evidence from a former colleague.

“Unfortunately, we’re sending dogs to an area of the world that has a lot of poverty and doesn’t always see dogs or animals the way we do in the United States,” she told News4 Washington. “If we’re going to gift a dog to these countries, we’ve gotta be sure they’re taken care of.”

The IG concluded in its report that Jordan’s EDC program is unlikely to become self-sustaining and will require continuous State Department mentoring. It also cautioned that “the dogs are still at risk.”

The IG supported its findings with help from the Winchester, Virginia-based Canine Validation Center, which recently started providing canine training to the State Department. The center compiled its own report and found, according to the IG,  that “although the Jordanians are ‘interested’ in providing their canines the best care, the commanders and veterinary staff are not financially committed to providing or enforcing a dedicated, long-term preventative program.”

The center also concluded that, because Jordanian officials believe they can rely on the State Department to provide products needed to ensure the dogs’ well-being, “they appear reluctant to dedicate their own funds to a preventative care program,” according to the IG report.

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Athena was 2-years old when she arrived in Jordan in May 2017. Less than a year later she was found to be severely emaciated, and she returned to the U.S. in April 2018 for treatment. She made a full recovery. Her kennel with dirt and feces on the floor is shown on the right, along with a bowl that had no water.

The report declared that the ultimate responsibility for overseeing the EDC program lies with the State Department. And it found that, in addition to failing to guarantee the dogs’ health and safety, the department routinely failed to secure written agreements from foreign partners that outline standards for minimum care and retirement of the animals.

Jordan has received more EDCs than any of the other nations named in the report ― Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Nepal, and Oman. Though some health concerns were reported for the dogs in those countries, the problems did not match the severity of the ones found in Jordan.