Labrador retrievers have accompanied Marines in Afghanistan. Belgian Malinois keep watch at the White House. German shepherds provide security at airports. Sniffer dogs are posted at United States Embassies.
Through the years and across many borders, the American government has pressed dogs into labor and war. But a new federal report says better oversight is needed for dogs that are trained in the United States and then sent to foreign countries as part of an antiterrorism program. Some of those dogs have died or fallen ill while being kept in poor conditions, according to the report, released this month by the State Department’s Office of Inspector General.
The report, which reviewed conditions in at least six countries but focused mainly on Jordan, included photographs of some of the animals. One was Mencey, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, who contracted a tick-borne disease after arriving in Jordan in 2017 and was euthanized in the United States less than a year later after developing complications, the report said.
Athena, a 2-year-old of the same breed, was evacuated to the United States last year after American veterinarians who had been sent to assess the program in Jordan discovered she was severely emaciated, the report said. She recovered.
Zoe, another 2-year-old Belgian Malinois, died of heat stroke in 2017 while working at the Syrian border.
Such security operations in Jordan are overshadowed by the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people who have tried to escape the civil war in neighboring Syria, or who have struggled to survive in refugee camps in the border region.
The Office of Inspector General report has prompted concerns from legislators in the United States and a request for a briefing to be scheduled by the end of next week. In Jordan, which is the largest recipient of the program, at least 10 dogs have died from medical issues from 2008 to 2016.
“The report raises concerns that the State Department has not taken adequate steps to ensure that dogs placed into service in foreign countries through this program receive adequate nutrition, living conditions, or veterinary care,” Senator Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Finance Committee, wrote in a letter last Thursday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
On Tuesday, Senator Mark R. Warner, Democrat of Virginia, sent a letter to Secretary Pompeo asking for his department’s plans on how to improve the program. Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, also wrote to the secretary of state, seeking answers to questions that included why the department continued to provide dogs to Jordan despite being aware of the poor treatment.
“The funds we provide to help countries like Jordan locate and remove unexploded bombs has saved countless lives,” Mr. Leahy said in a separate statement. “Bomb-sniffing dogs are indispensable to that process, they cost a lot of money to train, and their lives are put at risk every day in the field. It is imperative that they are properly cared for.”
There was no reply from a Jordanian government spokeswoman when asked for comment on the report. The Public Security Directorate, which oversees the dogs in Jordan, also did not respond to a request for comment, and no official statements have been made there since the release of the report.
The Jordanian Embassy, in Washington, said in an emailed statement: “Jordan takes the welfare of its security working dogs very seriously. An investigation has begun, including external assessors.”
The State Department has sent staff members, trainers and veterinarians on oversight visits and welfare checks to Jordan since 2016, the report said. One such visit in April 2016 found that canine parvovirus, described as “rampant” at a police facility in Jordan, was the main cause of death for dogs there, the report said.
Some dogs had hip dysplasia and arthritis and had “lost the will to work,” it said. Dogs belonging to Jordan also showed signs of poor treatment and neglect.
The report said there were some improvements after 2018, citing physical upgrades and better food at the main kennel for the dogs in Amman.
The Office of Inspector General said it was not aware of follow-up visits to assess the care of the dogs provided by the United States to other recipients — Morocco, Nepal, Egypt, Lebanon and Oman — but Mr. Grassley said he was “especially troubled” by the findings on conditions in Jordan.
“The best-trained dog in the world is still ill equipped to protect American interests if it is sick or starving,” he wrote.
Michael Zona, a spokesman for Mr. Grassley, said Wednesday that his office had received a confirmation of receipt of the letter, which was addressed to Secretary Pompeo, but not a formal response.
“This is the first time we are aware of that the O.I.G. has looked into this issue,” Mr. Zona said in an email.
There was no reply from the State Department to emailed questions about the report.
The Office of Inspector General report was prompted by a complaint to its hotline in 2017 that claimed that the State Department was not providing follow-up to ensure dogs sent to foreign countries under its Explosive Detection Canine Program had adequate care.
The department initially trained antiterrorism service dogs in a program with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, but in 2016 it started its own training center for dogs and foreign handlers in Winchester, Va. A 30-day course to train foreign handlers and 15 dogs costs $450,000, the report said.
As of last September, 100 dogs had been trained there and sent to the six countries, the report said.
But it said that the department did not have signed written agreements on their care. Mr. Grassley said lawmakers were seeking a complete accounting of the dogs that have died under the program.
Rana F. Sweis contributed reporting.