Following completed tours of duty, several hundred heroic Army dogs and their handlers have been separated despite attempts to adopt. Instead, the dogs have been covertly adopted out to civilians and other members of the government, according to an article for the New York Post.
K2 Solutions, a North Carolina-based organization that trains canines from therapy dogs to bomb-sniffing war hounds, has reportedly been found through investigations to have “secretly” re-homed at least two-hundred military working dogs (MWD) in cooperation with the U.S. Army.
One handler by the name of Daniel, who embarked on his third tour with MWD Oogie, is destined never to see his partner again. After K2 Solutions boarded the entire infantry’s canine partners on a truck, he says, Oogie simply disappeared. The two are pictured together below.
Daniel and hundreds of other handlers were and are reassured on the basis of Robby’s Law, which mandates documentation of “the numbers [of dogs] adopted, transferred to law enforcement, euthanized, or disposed of by other means,” that they would be able to apply for adoption.
Findings suggest that not only have these adoption requests been mishandled, the handlers’ attempts to reach out for information are either fruitless or ignored entirely.
The article’s author Maureen Callahan writes:
It’s a scandal that continues to this day, with hundreds of handlers still searching for their dogs—and the Army, the Pentagon and K2 Solutions covering up what happened, and what may still be happening.
Handler Brian Kornse lost his dog Fistik to a former Pentagon employee. Kornse was “lucky” enough to discover the whereabouts of Fistik (now Mystic), but his losing her to another family has all but destroyed him. He tells the Post:
I guess I had PTSD before, but I never really noticed till I gave Fistik up. I started having nightmares. I never experienced that before. She made everything better for me—that’s the best way I can describe it.
Yet another handler Ryan Henderson believes there may be a “thriving black market” for ex-military dogs. He had been searching for his dog for two years until he discovered the canine was adopted by his second handler. For those who have trained and experienced war with these animals, the thought of them sharing homes with civilians—and possibly children—is frightening.
Each of these dogs has PTSD, and many are not ideally suited for “ordinary” lifestyles without help from professionals and a safe environment to decompress. A now ex-K2 employee said at one of the organization’s adoption events:
Civilians don’t understand what these dogs have been through in war. […] Too many civilians were getting dogs that should have gone to handlers. It wasn’t right.
Staffer at the Office of the Provost Marshal General (OPMG) Richard Vargus was present at one of the adoption events, and was also in charge of the Tactical Explosive Detector Dogs (TEDD) program’s policy. The ex-K2 employee says Vargus was aware of what was going on, yet he may have also taken two dogs home himself.
The Facebook community “Justice for TEDD Handlers” is specifically dedicated to reuniting TEDD handlers with their canines. They responded in a Facebook post:
We were excited that the story was going to be told so that more dogs could be located. […] K2 employees were NOT in charge of the adoptions and had no say in what was happening. The OPMG gave the dogs to anyone who showed up without prior application or verification. This was not appropriate in our opinion, but this is what happened.
A statement from the United States Army also insists that all TEDD adoptions were in fact conducted in accordance with the law. Vargus refused to comment.
One woman who attended an adoption event after informing her husband that “K2’s dumping dogs” was quite taken aback at what she found. She was informed of the dogs’ PTSD, and discovered no background checks were performed on adoptive civilians:
None was asked what they planned to do with the dogs, or if they were capable of dealing with a dog with war wounds. None was asked whether they had small children.
When she adopted military dog Ben, his deployment records came with his rightful handler’s name printed at the top. MWDs also have microchips and identification tattoos, causing some to wonder how their handlers cannot be found following their adoption requests.
K2 Solutions posted the following to Facebook just one hour after the Post‘s article release:
K2 Solutions is very proud of the support that we provided to the US Army’s TEDD program during the exactly one year…
Posted by K2 Solutions on Sunday, February 14, 2016
A rare few heartbroken handlers have found their dogs with people who want nothing more than to reunite them; others are refused or ignored completely. Many of these men and women will never see their brave partners again despite having saved their lives or having been saved themselves. And the dogs dumped into otherwise typical family life may find themselves struggling, confused, and often startled by ordinary sights and sounds.
These war heroes belong with the people who know them best, and it is our hope that a larger effort will be made to ensure this outcome in the future.