U.S. Denies Military Dogs Were Abandoned in Cages at Kabul Airport

A U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson on Tuesday denied online reports that the U.S. military left contract working dogs behind in Afghanistan.

"The U.S. priority mission was the evacuation of U.S. citizens, SIV [Special Immigrant Visa applicants] and vulnerable Afghans," the spokesperson told Newsweek in an email. "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.'"

The statement came after some news outlets reported military dogs were left behind during the evacuation from Kabul. Those reports led animal rights group American Humane to release a statement that condemned the U.S. government.

"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 President and CEO Robin Ganzert said in a statement posted on the organization's website.

The Defense Department said the reports are false and the photos being shared around the internet were of dogs not used by U.S. military forces.

"Photos circulating online were animals under the care of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue, not dogs under the care of the U.S. military," the department's spokesperson told Newsweek. "Despite an ongoing complicated and dangerous retrograde mission, U.S. forces went to great lengths to assist the Kabul Small Animal Rescue as much as possible."

military dog
An animal rights group on Monday criticized the U.S. government over a report that military dogs were left behind in Afghanistan. The Department of Defense denied the allegation. Above, a solider and a working dogs search through caves looking for weapons caches during a patrol with the U.S. Army's 4th squadron 2d Cavalry Regiment on February 28, 2014, near Kandahar, Afghanistan. Getty

In a statement made to People, a Pentagon spokesperson said: "our military working dogs were safely evacuated."

An American Humane spokesperson told Newsweek on Tuesday that the organization knows what the Defense Department said. However, they "stand by what we have heard."

"Reports to us from Kabul, including those from the military, made it clear that not only were contract working dogs denied access to cargo storage in the last flights out, but that the government also denied charter planes access to remove the dogs to safety," the American Humane spokesperson said in an email.

In her Monday statement, Ganzert demanded that any dogs abandoned in Afghanistan "should be loaded into whatever cargo space remains and flown to safety." She added that American Humane would assist in helping get dogs home.

To prevent any future occurrences of dogs being abandoned, Ganzert also called on Congress to make changes to the classification of military dogs as an assurance that the animals would never be left behind.

"Irrespective of the outcome, this gross oversight of justice must be stopped from happening again, as it did in Vietnam too. To that end, we call on Congress to take action to classify contract working dogs on the same level as military working dogs," Ganzert wrote. "Failure to do anything less, is a failure of humanity and a condemnation of us all."

Ganzert said that American Humane has worked with the U.S. military since World War I to rescue military animals and find homes for retired military dogs and pairing service dogs with veterans.

American Humane is known for monitoring the treatment of animals on film sets and other broadcast productions. The trademarked phrase "No Animals Were Harmed" that appears during the credits comes from the group.