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What’s the difference between a military dog and a contract dog?

The recent American withdrawal and end to the War in Afghanistan has spurred questions about military animals that may have been left behind.
A military dog wears a cooling vest to prevent heat stroke.
A military dog wears a cooling vest to prevent heat stroke.
Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 6:28 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The recent American withdrawal and end to the War in Afghanistan has spurred questions about military animals that may have been left behind.

Images of alleged abandoned dogs in crates are taking social media by storm, but military officials have said that all military dogs in Afghanistan have been imported back to the United States.

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WVLT News reached out to Department of Defense spokesperson Eric Pahon to ask what makes contract dogs different from their military counterparts. According to Pahon, contract dogs are not owned by the Department of Defense; they are hired from outside companies to do work like bomb sniffing.

Since the Department of Defense does not own the dogs, it has no way to verify documents like vaccination records and cannot take them out on military flights, Pahon said. This means that any dogs contracted by the military, but not owned by the military, must be taken out on charter flights.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a suspension on the importing of dogs from Afghanistan this summer, since it is listed as a country with high risk for dog rabies. CDC officials said dogs from Afghanistan “may be imported only with CDC’s advance written approval” in the form of a permit.

An East Tennessee woman has refused multiple opportunities to return home from Afghanistan in an effort to evacuate roughly 130 dogs, 50 of which she said are military contract dogs. She works with Kabul Small Animal Rescue, an animal shelter operating in Afghanistan’s capital.

While some contract dogs remain in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby has confirmed that all military dogs have been evacuated from the country, and even mentioned the remaining dogs from Kabul Small Animal Rescue.

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