Warner Renews Push to Safeguard Welfare of Bomb-Sniffing Dogs Abroad – Press Releases


WASHINGTON – US Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is renewing his push to safeguard the health and welfare of American-trained bomb-sniffing dogs tasked with fighting terrorism abroad.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Sen. Warner today highlighted new language that requires the Department of State to report on the status of dogs in the Explosive Detection Canine Program (EDCP), which came under scrutiny in 2019 after an Inspector General (IG) report found that the Department failed to conduct proper follow-up after sending highly-trained dogs to foreign partner nations, resulting in the death of at least ten dogs from largely preventable illnesses.

“I was glad to see that the recent Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on March 15, included language requiring the State Department to report to Congress on the status of dogs currently in, and retired from the program, as well as an update on the policies and procedures that the Department has implemented in response to the Inspector General’s recommendations,” wrote Sen. Warner.

“As you know, the Department spends millions of taxpayer dollars in order to initially train these canines, provide appropriate veterinary care, and embed mentors in partner nations, among other efforts and expenses meant to ensure the success of the program. Once abroad, these loyal canines play an invaluable role, often risking their lives in support of their security mission, working to keep important assets, their teams, and broader safe populations,” he continued. “For these reasons and more it is morally wrong and unacceptable for any dog ​​to be subjected to mistreatment, malnutrition, improper care, or unsafe shelter. Congress and the American people deserve to know the steps that the Department has taken and is planning, to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not placing dogs in these conditions.”

The Warner-led language – signed into law as part of the government spending bill – requires the State Department to produce a report for Congress that accounts for each of the dogs in the program, including those who are now retired. The report, due to Congress within 90 days, must also provide an update on the policies and procedures that the Department has implemented in response to the Inspector General’s 2019 recommendations.

Sen. Warner, a dog owner, has been an advocate for dogs in Virginia and throughout the country. He previously raised alarm about the 2019 Inspector General (IG) report, which found that the trained dogs who died in the Kingdom of Jordan suffered from various medical problems, including preventable illnesses like parvovirus and heat exhaustion. Many of the dogs were trained at a State Department-contracted facility located in Winchester, Va.

The State Department’s antiterrorism assistance program provides Explosive Detection Canines (EDCs) to foreign countries to support local law enforcement in deterring and countering terrorism. The program is primarily implemented by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Antiterrorism Assistance, in partnership with the Bureau of Counterterrorism. Although the State Department previously relied on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to provide and train the bomb-sniffing dogs, in 2016, the State Department established its own canine training center, the Canine Validation Center (CVC) in Winchester, Va ., which is responsible for procuring dogs, training foreign students as handlers, and assessments to determine a country’s ability to care for the dogs and operate a canine program. In addition, the CVC is responsible for health and welfare assessments in foreign countries.

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Secretary Blinken,

I write today regarding efforts by the Department of State to address serious concerns that Congress and the Department’s Inspector General, among others, have raised about the Explosive Detection Canine Program (EDCP).

In September 2019, the Office of the Inspector General for the US Department of State (OIG) released a report, Evaluation of the Antiterrorism Assistance Explosive Detection Canine Program – Health and Welfare. As you know, the evaluation of this program resulted from allegations that the US was providing insufficient oversight, resulting in the inadequate health care, mistreatment, and premature deaths of a number of dogs. Months later, in December 2019, OIG issued a subsequent report, in response to another complaint alleging that “additional canines beyond those described in the [September] evaluation had died” from preventable causes.

As part of its evaluations, OIG made a series of recommendations to the Department to address the serious concerns over the health and welfare of the dogs trained and as a part of this program.

I was glad to see that the recent Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on March 15, included a language requiring the State Department to report to Congress on the status of dogs currently in, and retired from the program, as well as an update on the policies and procedures that the Department has implemented in response to the Inspector General’s recommendations.

As you know, the Department spends millions of taxpayer dollars in order to initially train these canines, provide appropriate veterinary care, and embed mentors in partner nations, among other efforts and expenses meant to ensure the success of the program. Once abroad, these loyal canines play an invaluable role, often risking their lives in support of their security mission, working to keep important assets, their teams, and broader safe populations.

For these reasons and more morally wrong and, it is unacceptable for any dog ​​to be subjected to mistreatment, malnutrition, improper care, or unsafe shelter. Congress and the American people deserve to know the steps that the Department has taken and is planning, to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not placing dogs in these conditions.

I’m glad that the Department under your leadership will be examining this issue, and I look forward to seeing the results from the report within the required 90-day period. To coincide with that report, I would ask that the Department also brief my staff on the current status of the program.

This issue remains very important to me, and I look forward to working with you as needed to continue addressing reforms to this program.

Sincerely,

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