G.I. pets banned as “biosecurity risk”
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2004:
BOSTON–Dogs and cats who help U.S. military personnel endure
the stress of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are the latest urgent
biosecurity risk to the United States, according to some
bureaucrats, who are now trying to keep the troops from bringing
their companions home.
Comparisons are in order. Published accounts indicate that
U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past two
years have brought home fewer than 100 dogs and cats in total. None
are known to have carried any serious disease.
Just a handful of dogs and cats are believed to have been
imported from Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. None of them
carried any serious disease, either.
Illegal imports of wildlife and wildlife parts into U.S.,
worth about $1 billion in 1991, are now worth $3 billion, estimates
the U.S. Department of Justice. Federal and state agencies have yet
to even visibly slow the clandestine wildlife traffic, every item of
which is an uninspected, untested potential biosecurity hazard.
On February 9, 2004 the USDA Animal & Plant Health
Inspection Service ended an investigation of how mad cow disease
entered the U.S. from Canada. More than than 30 million cattle are
killed for meat in the U.S. each year, but the USDA tests only
40,000 for the presence of the prions associated with mad cow
disease. The USDA examined the brain of the cow who was identified
as the first known U.S. carrier only because she was killed outside
of the Vern’s Moses Lake Meat Company slaughterhouse. The cow was
killed on December 9. By the time she was found to have had mad cow
disease, on December 22, her meat had already been distributed and
eaten in at least five states.
Eighty cows were imported from the same Canadian herd, but
the USDA was unable to find out what had become of 52 of them,
including 11 who may have eaten feed containing the remains of other
mad cows. Feeding the remains of ruminants to other ruminants was
banned in 1997, but these 11 cows and the one who tested positive
for mad cow disease were all born in 1996.
Avian flu offers yet another example of the proportionality
of risk. The H5N1 strain, capable of killing humans, has not yet
come to the U.S.–but the H7 strain struck farms and live poultry
markets in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York,
Pennsylvania, and Texas. At least 86,000 chickens were killed on
the first two farms where H7 was detected. Thousands more were
scheduled to be killed.
The U.S. Live Stock Association and U.S. Animal Health
Association “emphasized the problem of live poultry markets in the
control of avian influenza” as early as 1924, according to Animal
Health: A Century of Progress, by Neal Black. Eighty years later,
New Jersey live markets identified as problematic then are still
Bonnie Buckley, of Merrimac, Massachusetts, has formed an
organization called Military Mascots to help U.S. soldiers bring
their pets home. Military Mascots is so new that it has not even
secured IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit status yet.
But Military Mascots has one powerful foe. On February 12,
Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources division of Animal
Health, Biosecurity, and Dairy Services director David M. Sherman,
DVM, ordered that “until further notice, no animal will be
permitted entry into, or transit through Massachusetts that has
originated in Iraq or Afghanistan. Such animals found in violation
of this order will be seized.”
Sherman acted, he wrote, because “Iraq is essentially a war
zone and there is currently no competent veterinary authority
operational in Iraq to issue meaningful health certificates.”
Sherman took no notice that the U.S. military has sent numerous
veterinarians to Iraq to help rebuild the national public health
service and agricultural industry.
“Rabies is endemic in Iraq,” Sherman continued. “A
six-month quarantine would be necessary to ensure that individual
animals were not incubating rabies even if they are recently
This disregarded that many of the dogs and cats whom U.S. troops wish
to bring home were vaccinated within days of adoption, more than six
months ago, and have been with the soldiers throughout their tours
“Leishmaniasis is another zoonotic disease of concern that is
endemic to Iraq,” Sherman went on.
Indeed leishmaniasis occurs in Iraq, and is serious, but
the major vector for leishmaniasis in the U.S. is commerce in
foxhounds. The biggest outbreak of leishmanasis known to have
occurred in the U.S. spread from the Millbrook Hunt Club in Dutchess
County, New York, in 1999, just a few miles from the western
Massachusetts state border. Twenty-one dogs died. Infected
foxhounds were eventually discovered among about 40 packs in 20
states plus Canada.
There was speculation that a U.S. soldier might have brought
an infected dog home from Iraq, but no one ever identified such a
soldier or such a dog.
“There are concerns regarding the existence of weapons of
mass destructon, possibly including biological warfare agents, with
animals from this area possibly serving as vectors for such
biological agents,” Sherman added. “The same or comparable
conditions also prevail in Afghanistan.”
Some dogs and cats adopted by U.S. troops might also have
been given a lift at some point by mysterious black helicopters. At
least some of the soldiers who brought their pets home preferred to
be mysterious about which pilots helped them, to keep the pilots out
Animals & troops
A British soldier was actually the first on record to adopt
an Iraqi pet. As British troops encamped near Basra, during the
first week of April 2003, Jonathan West, 20, of the Zulu Company
1st Battalion Royal Regiment Fusiliers, reportedly found a
dehydrated mother dog and five puppies hiding in a hollow. West
turned the hollow into a sandbagged fox hole with a tin sun shade.
The strict British quarantine laws ensured that there was
never a chance that West could take the dogs home. But they may be
the same dogs seen on television on April 10, 2003 by Marcy
Christmas, 51, of Camarillo, California. Christmas contacted
Margaret Ledger of the Humane Center for Animal Welfare in Amman,
Jordan. Ledger, on her way to Iraq to rescue a group of gazelles,
found a mother and six pups who fit the description in the village of
Al Amanieh. A local family adopted one puppy, military personnel
adopted another, and Christmas paid the cost of flying the mother
and the remaining four pups to Los Angeles.
Helping to restore the war-damaged Baghdad Zoo, the Humane
Center for Animal Welfare veterinary staff later took in 32 dogs
found on the zoo grounds and found U.S. homes for them with help from
Christmas and the Doris Day Animal League. One of those dogs, named
Ames Faris, was adopted by military safety officer Susan Tianen,
who met him while on duty in Baghdad.
U.S. Marine Corps Major Sherri Annan, 33, commander of the
Direct Support Company B, 6th Motor Transport Battalion, in April
2003 adopted a “thick-furred, sheepdog/shepherd mix,” said Augusta
Chronicle staff writer Johnny Edwards. A Marine reserve call-up,
Annan in civilian life works for the Midland SPCA in Midland, Texas.
She named the dog Chesty, and planned to take him back to Texas.
“Marines sitting under a camouflage net with a puppy
frolicking on the ground or a bird sitting in a cage have become a
regular sight at camps and supply stations,” Edwards wrote, also
mentioning Private First Class Aaron Edwards, 20, of Chatanooga,
and Lance Corporal Bryan Tecklenburg, 22, of Fishkill, New York,
who found and kept a pair of parakeets.
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 collectively adopted a
puppy they named Dragon. They assigned him the unofficial rank of
private, then twice promoted him for biting officers.
The first Iraqi dog known to have reached the U.S. was a
nine-year-old arthritic German shepherd named Yo-ge. In April 2003
Sergeant 1st Class William Gillette of Clarksville, Tennessee,
assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group, saw two men holding Yo-ge
while a third man beat the dog with a metal rod. Gillette
handcuffed the men, took Yo-ge, and enlisted his help on guard duty.
With the help of a Special Forces medic, Gillette obtained the
requisite vaccinations and health certificate to fly Yo-ge to New
York City. Former Special Forces member Chris Cornelius met the
plane and took Yo-ge to his home in Royal Oak, Michigan, until
Gillette was able to reclaim him. The Royal Oak Fire Department and
a local realtor helped to cover Yo-ge’s expenses. Veterinarian Jack
Wright treated his injuries without charge.
Soon thereafter, Army Staff Sergeant Jason Cowart of Fort
Hood, Texas, rescued a puppy who rode with him in a Humvee on
patrol. Naming the puppy Ratchet, Cowart sent him home to the U.S.
in May 2003 with help from John Walsh of the World Society for the
Protection of Animals.
Fluffy, the German shepherd recipient of the July/August
2003 Lewyt Award for Heroic and Compassionate Animals, joined the
Third Group, Special Forces, Alpha Company, Third Battalion,
after Kurdish soldiers rescued him from abuse by Iraqis and wondered
if the U.S. unit could use a guard dog. Trained by Sergeant Russell
Joyce, Fluffy twice distinguished himself in firefights. Appeals by
the North Shore Animal League America, U.S. War Dogs Association
president Ron Aiello, and 32 U.S. Senators won Fluffy official
recognition as an honorary working military dog, entitled to
military transportation to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
U.S. Navy electrician’s mate second class Sean Turpie,
assigned temporarily to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, met Iraq
Jack when the puppy’s mother ran off with one of Turpie’s boots
during a lull between firefights at Umm Qsar. Turpie saved Iraq Jack
from British soldiers who were ordered to shoot strays, then found a
helicopter pilot who flew the dog to Bahrain. From there, Turpie
man aged to bring Iraq Jack home to Oceanside, California. There
Iraq Jack debuted by making a promotional appearance for the North
County Humane Society.
By then the heavy fighting had ended, and the U.S. military
began to enforce Department of Defense General Order 1-A, ordaining
that military personnel may not keep pets or mascots while on duty or
on property under military command–and may not even feed either wild
or domestic animals except as ordered in the line of duty.
Among the last soldiers’ dogs known to have reached the U.S.
was A.J., adopted by National Guard medic Paula Wories, 21. Wories
sent him to her parents, Pete and Lynn Wories of Highland, Indiana,
in October 2003, via Kuwait, after he was injured by a feral dog
Sergeants First Class Bill Ford and Mark Alfonso of Alpha
Company, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry, were unsuccessful in their
efforts to rescue a black puppy named Apache. In September 2003
Apache drew a death sentence after biting an officer. Members of the
unit dumped Apache 10 miles away rather than shoot him, but he made
his way back in three days. Maggie Ford, wife of Bill Ford, told
Orlando Sentinel staff writer Roger Roy that the soldiers finally had
Apache killed by lethal injection just before Thanksgiving 2003,
and that the whole unit was depressed.
“We get three to six calls or e-mails a week from soldiers,
fathers, mothers, wives and siblings trying to find out how to get
a dog from Iraq to the U.S.,” WSPA U.S. office director Laura Salter
recently told Ron Harris of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
WSPA assembled a brochure to help soldiers cut the red tape
involved. Apart from the military rule against mascots, and the
difficulty of obtaining the mandatory vaccinations and health
certificate, there is also the cost of arranging a commercial flight
from Iraq or a neighboring nation, such as Kuwait or Bahrain.
“Pets may be shipped only when a soldier is being shipped on
permanent change of station orders,” Captain Stephen Honda of the
U.S. Transportation Command explained to Harris. “When on temporary
duty status, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, only working dogs may
travel on Department of Defense aircraft.”
“On top of that,” reported Lisa Hoffman of the Scripps
Howard news Service on February 19, “the primary route for spiriting
U.S.-bound animals out of Iraq –10 hours by road across the western
Iraqi desert to Jordan–is now shut. Worried about health risks,
the Jordanian government is refusing to allow any more dogs in, even
though the animals are there only temporarily, remain confined, and
have clean bills of health.”
“With the help of soldiers from the Army’s 1st Armored
division and 5th Corps, and funding from the 22nd Signal Brigade,
Iraqi veterinarians recently cut the grand-opening ribbon at the
Iraqi Society for Animal Welfare in central Baghdad,” American
Forces Press Service specialist Chad D. Wilkerson reported on
February 4. “The society, made up of military and civilian
veterinarians and Iraqi officials, was formed to address the growing
need for animal control in Baghdad,” Wilkerson continued.
The newly formed humane society, the first in Iraq, is
headed by Baghdad Zoo assistant director Farah Murrani, DVM,
assisted by U.S. Army Captain William Sumner, arts, monuments, and
archives officer for the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade.
It will focus, said Murrani, on dog and cat sterilization,
and on controlling rabies and leishmaniasis.
It will also take in strays and offer animals for
adoption–and may become the destination of last resort for the dogs
and cats whom soldiers cannot bring home.
[Contact Military Mascots c/o Bonnie Buckley, 57 Bearhill
Road, Merrimac, MA 01860; <mascots@-adoptpaws.org>;