There's good news for U.S. soldiers who have befriended stray dogs or cats during their duty tours in the Middle East. Up until now, it was almost impossible for soldiers to safely bring their 'adopted' animals home. Now thanks to SPCA International, some soldiers will be able to bring their beloved companions home. Click to read more about the new program "Operation Baghdad Pups."There's good news for U.S. soldiers who have befriended stray dogs or cats during their duty tours in the Middle East. Up until now, it was almost impossible for soldiers to safely bring their 'adopted' animals home. Now thanks to SPCA International, some soldiers will be able to bring their beloved companions home.
The program called, "Operation Baghdad Pups," will assist in arranging transportation of animals who have become unit mascots and companions to the military men and women. According to Terri Crisp, Animal Resource and Rescue Consultant, SPCA for Operation Baghdad Pups, this carefully planned mission will enable approximately 35 to 50 dogs to leave the war zone each year. The SPCA has set strict limits. For example, it will not transport a dog to a U.S. home with young children.
"The SPCA is only taking animals who have been in the care of military personnel for at least two months," says Crisp. "This means a soldier cannot just adopt a dog within two weeks of shipping out. In fact, the SPCA prefers to transport the animal out two months ahead of the home-bound soldier. "We want to avoid people who may impulsively want to save an animal by bringing it home.The last thing we want to do is fill up shelters here with dogs and cats that have come from the Middle East."
In Afghanistan and Iraq dogs are not treated as pets, explains Crisp. Most are not socialized to live with people but instead dogs usually live in packs of 35 animals on the street. Survival is their first concern.
Most of the animals who have befriended soldiers were adopted as very young pups or kittens. It would be difficult for these animals to start living on their own, never having lived in a pack. Military personnel fear they may suffer neglect, abuse or even starvation if they are left behind.
However, SPCA International also recognizes a firm U.S. military policy, Government Order 1-A (GO-1A), that prohibits the keeping of animals. Still, Crisp says the SPCA hopes that following Hurricane Katrina, the military will acknowledge the strong human-animal bond and the tragedy of separation. "In the case of these animals we are not trying to solve the stray animal problem in Iraq or Afghanistan," says Crisp. "We're taking a select group of animals whose relationships have become real morale boosters for the soldiers."
Costs associated with getting an animal to the U.S. are up to $4,000 depending on the animal's size and destination. This covers vaccinations, airfare and all kinds of troubleshooting. Crisp expects about a 90 to 10 ratio of dogs to cats. Since the pets arrive in the U.S. ahead of the returning caregiver, Camp Bow Wow will provide foster care.
Additionally, the dogs may need home training especially housebreaking. They must learn to cope with new sounds, new smells and even a different language. SPCA International will work with Bark Busters to provide home training. These adjustments are one reason SPCA International brings the adopted animals back two months ahead of the soldiers. When military personnel return, they also may have to make personal adjustments and having a dog that has already adjusted to its new home will make their transition a lot easier.
SPCA International also helps cover shipping costs for animals belonging to active military personnel when they are being transferred. Additionally, foster homes can be arranged for military personnel who are unable to care for animals for extended periods of time.
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For more information about Operation Baghdad Pups go to www.baghdadpups.com