Woman stays in Afghanistan to save military contract dogs
(WVLT/Gray News) - A Tennessee woman refused multiple opportunities to escape Afghanistan in an effort to save military contract dogs left behind during the American withdrawal from the country.
Clinton native Charlotte Maxwell-Jones is the director and founder of Kabul Small Animal Rescue in Kabul, Afghanistan, where she has lived for 11 years.
She told WVLT that she is staying behind until about 130 dogs, about 50 of which are military contract dogs, are safely evacuated.
“They’re my responsibility, and I love them and I care for them. I think there’s less chance of recovering them if I’m not here,” said Maxwell-Jones.
Maxwell-Jones said the contract dogs are trained to sniff bombs and perform crucial tasks to help neutralize threats for U.S. troops while overseas. She said that contract dogs aren’t given the same priority as military dogs.
The main difference between a contract dog and a military dog is who owns it. According to Department of Defense spokesperson Eric Pahon, contract dogs are hired from outside companies to do work for the military, but the military does not own them.
Since the military does not own the contract animals or have access to their health records, they must take charter flights, not military ones, out of the country, Pahon said. However, he did confirm that the department has worked with Kabul Small Animal Rescue to move the contract dogs into a safer, fenced-in area.
Pahon also said that all military dogs were removed from Afghanistan.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not allowing dogs into the U.S. from Afghanistan, but Maxwell-Jones is trying to get an exemption. If an exemption isn’t granted, the Clinton native said those animals would go to Canada for six months to quarantine.
Maxwell-Jones wants people to know that she is OK, even though she said she was at the Kabul airport the day explosions killed 13 U.S. service members. She described that scene as a loud nightmare.
The director said she has had dozens of opportunities to leave Afghanistan since the withdrawal began.
She said she received a visit from the Taliban on Aug. 23 when 12 armed men warned her to leave immediately.
Even though her parents want Maxwell-Jones to come home, she said she plans on sticking it out in Afghanistan until the animals under her care can leave safely.
Under Taliban rule, Maxwell-Jones said she has a curfew and has to walk around with a male escort if she wants to leave home.
It’s not just the roughly 50 military contract dogs she’s trying to evacuate. Maxwell-Jones said her rescue is also working to get another 80 dogs, 75 cats, two sheep and two parrots out of the country.
Maxwell-Jones estimated she could safely evacuate with the animals sometime within the coming weeks.
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