For several centuries, the military has been employing working dogs to sniff out trouble and provide support. And while there may be some benefits to doing so, animal rights activists were concerned when a rumor spread that many of them were being left in Afghanistan. Photos of dogs in cages in an Afghanistan airport inspired the viral hashtag #NoPawsLeftBehindAfghanistan — but were the rumors of abuse and abandonment actually true?
"The U.S. priority mission was the evacuation of U.S. citizens, SIV [referring to participants in a special visa program] and vulnerable Afghans," Department of Defense spokesman, Eric Pahon, told People. "However, to correct erroneous reports, the U.S. military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, to include the reported 'military working dogs.'"
Why is "No Paws Left Behind Afghanistan" trending on Twitter?
Activists and animal rights organizations such as American Humane Society were incredibly concerned when several photos surfaced earlier this week, showing what appeared to be military dogs in cages at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
"I am devastated by reports that the American government is pulling out of Kabul and leaving behind brave U.S. military contract working dogs to be tortured and killed at the hand of our enemies," American Humane Society's CEO, Robin Ganzert stated.
"These brave dogs do the same dangerous, lifesaving work as our military working dogs, and deserved a far better fate than the one to which they have been condemned."
But were these allegations based on any information beyond the photographs? The statement continues, offering to provide help in transporting the beloved pups back to safety.
"This senseless fate is made all the more tragic, as American Humane stands ready to not only help transport these contract K-9 soldiers to U.S. soil but also to provide for their lifetime medical care," Ganzert's statement continued. "In order to prevent this tragedy from occurring, these K-9’s should be loaded into whatever cargo space remains and flown to safety."
This inspired the phrase, "No Paws Left Behind Afghanistan," to trend on Twitter, as animal lovers across the globe shook their heads in disbelief.
Were the military dog abandonment rumors true?
It turns out the panic surrounding the alleged abandonment of military dogs in cages may have been for nothing. According to Defense One, the dogs that were photographed in cages weren't military dogs at all — they were reportedly being evacuated by an animal rights organization called Kabul Small Animal Rescue, which is a clinic that operates out of Afghanistan. The organization focuses on bringing dogs to safety, especially amid times of civil unrest.
“To correct erroneous reports, the U.S. military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, to include the reported ‘military working dogs.’ Photos circulating online were animals under the care of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue,” a local source explained to Defense One.
To raise money for Kabul Small Animal Rescue, The Oval Pawffice, a Twitter fan page dedicated to FDOTUSes, Major Biden and the late Champ Biden, tweeted a link to a mug that raises money for Kabul Small Animal Rescue. They included the hashtag #NoPawsLeftBehind, reclaiming the phrase and hashtag to raise awareness for the animals who need help right now.
"In light of the events in Afghanistan, I have designed this cup myself, with my own two front paws, to suppawrt my furry friends from @KSAnimalRescue and the hoomans who are putting their lives at risk for them. - Major" the tweet reads.
While we're glad the rumors that military dogs are being abandoned appear to be untrue, we hope the beloved pups in need are brought to safety, and are rehomed ASAP.