In a shocking incident of animal apathy, bomb-sniffing dogs sent from the United State to Jordan are falling ill and dying due to improper treatment and negligence, a federal investigation found.
Inspectors at the State Department, who conducted a year-long evaluation found out that at least 10 such canines have died in Jordan between 2008 and 2016 from medical problems. It also found out that the ones who survived are suffering from "unhealthy conditions", such as inadequate kennels, poor sanitation, and overwork.
The images in the report published earlier this month show malnourished dogs with protruding ribs, overgrown nails and ears with ticks so engorged that they have likely been feasting on the dogs for days. Not just this, in some facilities there were no dog bowls and the food is thrown on the floor for the sniffers to eat.
For over two decades, the United States has sent bomb-sniffing and specially trained dogs to its Middle Eastern ally Jordan under anti-terrorism assistance program. Despite spending "millions of dollars" on training and dispatching the canines, State Department officials failed to take care of their health and welfare, the report said, which was initiated after a hotline complaint about the dogs' treatment.
According to the report, the major factor behind the dogs' mistreatment was loose regulation and lack of concrete policies by the State Department. The department could not provide investigators detailed information for the dogs in the other partner countries including Jordan, and they do not have any written documents mentioning about how to take care of the dogs.
It is because of this the canines in Jordan, the largest recipient in the program with 61 active bomb sniffer dogs, are facing continuous health problems. Other countries with fewer dogs include Thailand, Morocco, Indonesia, Bahrain.
A report by CNN mentioned a Jordanian official saying that an investigation into the dogs' welfare was underway, and included "external assessors". He added, "Jordan takes the welfare of its security working dogs very seriously."
The report mentioned that the first dog to die in Jordan was Zoe, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois. She died in 2017 of heat stroke — a "terrible death" that was due to improper care rather than an accident, it added.
Another heart wrenching case was of 2-year-old Athena, who had drastically started to lose weight and was ultimately sent back to the US to recover in 2018. This brought to fore the dogs' filthy living conditions — photos show dirt and feces all over her kennel floor, and an empty water bowl.
Notably, the concerns were raised in April 2016, when US canine training staff visited Jordan for welfare check. The report after the visit noted that high death rate, lack of medical care, insufficient facilities, and that the dogs had "lost the will to work."
Even after the 2016 findings and recommendations, a large number of dogs were subsequently sent to Jordan, and the funding for the program continued.
Even after new measures were put in place such as the deployment of full-time mentors from the US to monitor the dogs in Jordan, the problems continued — two of the mentors were in Jordan at the time of Athena's deteriorating health, and they failed to either notice or intervene.
The report listed out five recommendations, including more frequent welfare checks and the creation of a written agreement with partner nations. While the State Department agreed to four of the recommendations, they did not approve to a suggestion to stop sending dogs to Jordan until there was a sustainability plan put in place.
Since the report was published, Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance has written to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting more information and a briefing on the issue.
Grassley wrote, "It is important for Congress to know whether the (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."