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Bomb Dogs in “Deplorable” Condition

The Navy is blaming a private security contractor for badly neglecting dozens of dogs being trained as bomb-sniffers. Three of the 49 dogs died, and...

Maria Goodavage  |  Mar 11th 2010


 This Navy photo shows one of the Securitas Security Services USA, Inc. dogs soon after the military picked up the animals in October. Internal Navy e-mails say the photo was taken after the dog had been cleaned and groomed and after it had gained some weight. (Caption: Virginian-Pilot; Photo: US Navy)

The Navy is blaming a private security contractor for badly neglecting dozens of dogs being trained as bomb-sniffers. Three of the 49 dogs died, and the rest were in very poor health, according to an article in the The Virginian-Pilot.

The dogs were dirty and weak, and so emaciated that their ribs and hip bones jutted out, the article reports.

The Navy decided to hire an outside contractor to train bomb-sniffing dogs to protect dozens of ships and bases. The contract was awared to Securitas Security Services USA.

But when the dogs reported to work last spring after being with Securitas for months, they failed miserably at detecting planted explosives during military tests. So back they went to Securitas. In July, the Navy opted to end the contract, with the understanding the 49 dogs would be trained by Navy teams.

It wasn’t until Navy personnel went to pick up the dogs in Chicago in October that they realized something had gone horribly wrong along the way. According to the article:

The Navy declined to discuss what its personnel discovered that day, but according to e-mails obtained by The Virginian-Pilot, the animals appeared starved, neglected and dramatically different from three months earlier, when they failed the military’s certification tests.

The e-mails say the Navy picked the dogs up at a warehouse. In one message, a civilian official described their condition as “deplorable.” In another, he wrote that he feared the dogs would have died if the military hadn’t come to get them.

In fact, the Navy said later, at least two of the dogs did not survive. Several others were deemed too sick to ever be of use. Nearly a year after they were supposed to have begun working, the remaining K-9s still are not patrolling Navy installations as intended. )

Securitas is disputing any wrongdoing regarding training and care. The firm apparently wants more than $6 million for its fine services.

It is a complex story, with many ins and outs, accusations, and issues regarding military contractors in general. There’s also a fear that as the demand for bomb-sniffing dogs has increased post 9/11, so have dubious training operations.

The Virginian-Pilot story is an excellent investigation — in-depth, balanced, with interesting background on bomb-sniffing dogs and their training and value. It’s worth reading if you want to learn all the details available about this situation.

As for the status of the dogs, according to the article: “In a written statement, the Navy said it expects 39 of the original 49 dogs to eventually patrol installations as intended…The military is in the process of hiring and prepping its own civilian handlers to pair with the dogs.”

The photo below shows a marked improvement from what must have been a shocking sight last October. It’s a relief to see the dog looking so good. You’ll find other photos with the article. I do wonder what has become of the other seven dogs who were too ill to ever go to work…

This is Ringo, looking up at his Navy handler in late February. What a difference four months makes. (Photo: US Navy)