America’s longest war may be over, but the battle against misinformation lives on.
Now the U.S. government has been accused of leaving its K-9 allies behind in Kabul, leaving Americans outraged at the military’s alleged abandonment of its brave canine heroes. But new reporting has challenged this viral rumor, which appears to be America’s latest example of fake news.
The rumor began when American Humane published a statement accusing the U.S. government of abandoning 51 contracted military K-9s in their kennels at Kabul 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’s president and CEO, Dr. Robin R. Ganzert, wrote. “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.”
Our CEO @RobinGanzert condemns the Government’s decision to leave military contract working dogs in #Afghanistan. We hope to change current legislation so this never happens again. She discusses further with @GingerKUSI: https://t.co/f0gkqlrEDF via @KUSINews #BattleBuddies
— American Humane (@AmericanHumane) September 1, 2021
This heartbreaking story quickly went viral, in part because of Ganzert’s own media interviews.
“I’m devasted tonight that the American government pulled out of Kabul, and left behind brave contracted working dogs,” Ganzert told KUSI News in San Diego, describing the horrible fate awaiting our “battle buddies” under the Taliban.
As Ganzert spoke, the channel broadcast pictures of empty kennels allegedly left behind by the U.S. military at Kabul airport. Those kennels, Ganzert explained, once held our brave canine soldiers, who were let loose to fend for themselves as the last U.S. planes left Kabul.
Other critics eagerly picked up on Ganzert’s comments, helping them spread across social media. There was only one problem. The story wasn’t entirely true.
As the misleading photos spread across social media, the Pentagon disputed this growing narrative. According to a defense department spokesman, U.S. military K-9s and their handlers have all been safely evacuated from Kabul. And those heartbreaking photos of empty kennels at Kabul airport? They belonged to a different rescue.
“Photos circulating online were animals under the care of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue, not dogs under our care,” Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby confirmed on Twitter.
Kabul Small Animal Rescue is indeed trying to evacuate dogs and cats from Kabul, but those animals are local pets — not trained K-9s abandoned by the U.S. military.
To correct erroneous reports, the U.S. Military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, including the reported military working dogs. Photos circulating online were animals under the care of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue, not dogs under our care.
— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) August 31, 2021
Fact-checking website Snopes also found American Humane’s claim to be false, but the non-profit is standing by its original statement.
“We stand by our original statement condemning the government for leaving contract working dogs behind,” American Humane’s communications director, Laura Sheehan, wrote in an email to the Animal Rescue Site. “We had several reports from military personnel on the ground that contract working dogs were on-site at the airport and were not afforded the opportunity to travel in cargo.”
Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the heartbreaking fact that Kabul Small Animal Rescue is still trying to evacuate animals from a country now controlled by the Taliban. KSAR founder Charlotte Maxwell-Jones has refused to leave Afghanistan until her staff, their family, and the 250 dogs and cats in her care are safe.
As Maxwell-Jones explained to The Washington Post, KSAR’s rescued dogs – which do include some former working dogs – were indeed set free from their kennels as the Taliban seized Kabul airport.
However, the dogs weren’t “abandoned” as much as they were “seized from me and released,” said Maxwell-Jones, who recalled U.S. soldiers being kind and gentle with her precious cargo.
We’ve been struggling with misinformation and over-politicized media since this evacuation effort started, and are…
The Tennessee native believes she will be able to find the dogs, who weren’t able to fly to the U.S. because they didn’t meet the CDC’s stringent vaccine requirements. The SPCA, which just released an urgent statement on KSAR’s behalf, is seeking an emergency exception in this case, which would allow Maxwell-Jones to evacuate the animals on the next charter flight.
Charlotte here! I want to apologize for the quiet social media. We are busy making plans, checking them twice, sorting…
“There’s a decent chance that most of them are alive,” Maxwell-Jones told Stars and Stripes of the dogs, describing her hope of recovering the lost rescues and flying them to safety on a charter plane.
Follow Kabul Small Animal Rescue on Facebook for updates to this quickly moving story.