From our perspective, there is no reason to deny a benefit that all handlers should be provided per the actions of Congress because of preconceived opinions or bias: in other words, discrimination. For matters of comparison, the actions of the Office of the Provost Marshal General (OPMG) produce questions on the treatment of the Tactical Explosive Detection Dog (TEDD) handlers, as opposed to those handlers the OPMG MWD Program Manager, Richard A. Vargus, apparently considered the “professionals.”
- Although 10 USC § 2583 clearly states “handlers” in its reading, there appeared, in our opinion, to never be an attempt by OPMG hierarchy to include the TEDD handlers in the MWD adoption priority. Repeatedly, Justice for TEDD Handlers heard from handlers who never knew the option existed until after their return from deployment, when they were no longer a handler; that the “adoption forms” that keep being referenced as a necessity by the military were not readily available, nor was there ever any clearinghouse set up to provide the forms and information on the adoption process; and, finally, that many of those handlers who actually managed to jump the “form” hurdle, hit another barrier: to which military entity or contractor should the form be sent to ensure your future adoption rights. If OPMG’s intent was to discourage and dissuade those handlers from attempting to exercise the right provided by Congress: the right to apply to adopt their four-legged partner, OPMG could not have been more adept at doing so. While the “professional” handlers have an on-going relationship with a kennel master to protect their interests, TEDD handlers, once back from deployment had less than none. We do note that TEDD Program Operations Engineer Al Dimitro did attempt to track down eight handlers on social media for “possible adoptions” on 14 February 2014, however, those MWDs had already been adopted on 10 February 2014.
- We learned that a few handlers did hear of the February 2014 adoption event, but not through those in charge. Those men managed to reunite with their dogs. Although the Department of Defense claims that handlers adopt their MWDs in 90% of the cases, for the TEDD handlers, the reunion at this event equated to approximately 2 to 3%, and even those, apparently, were not through the efforts of OPMG.
- From the first, handlers related discussions with military addressing the location of their dogs after adoption. To the best of our knowledge, no one associated with the military ever provided an honest answer for those MWDs adopted by the general public. Ryan Henderson, who is fighting to reunite with his dog Satan, was told by Vargus that Satan was adopted by another “handler,” which was not true. This is not the only time that someone with OPMG stated that a handler had received a dog, which, in fact, had gone to the general public. Even MWD Kyra5 R625, snatched by OPMG contractor Robert G. Squires who was Vargus’ TEDD Coordinator, was claimed (by a military representative) to have been adopted by another of Kyra5’s handlers. Shortly after the event, a Facebook post was shared by a handler whose dog had been released to the NYPD, and the handler wrote of his conversation with MSG Blankenship, who claimed that OPMG reached out to the TEDD handlers for all the dogs released from service (not adopted by LEA or re-purposed elsewhere in the military.) Based on all the information available to us today, this is a blatant lie. Too many handlers are now attempting to reunite with their dogs, who were adopted by the general public, for this to be an accurate statement. Why would the military attempt to mislead handlers as to the disposition of their dogs, unless they knew that the dumping of the dogs on the general public was contrary to Congressional directions and stated Department of Defense policy of handler priority? Was there a cover-up in effect because of this prior, egregious behavior? Did OPMG attempt to silence any future attempts by the handler to adopt or locate their dog by claiming “another handler” now had the dog?
Shortly after the February 2016 New York Post article about the TEDD dogs, Justice for TEDD Handlers was told by a source that kennel staff were refusing to give out any information on former TEDD MWDs. A kennel master said that he absolutely will not speak to any former TEDD handler or advocate because of all the unnecessary attention brought to the dogs that they have now. This is unacceptable, as former handlers, attempting to check on the welfare of their former partners, have no other current resource from which they can obtain information. As of March 2017, we believe handlers are now being given some information, but it is limited.
- Even more insidious and, almost assuredly, keeping TEDD handlers from adopting MWDs which were retained by the military, the Department of Defense’s “Military Working Dog Service Record,” Form 1834, was not included in the TEDD MWD’s records since those forms are only issued by the 341st TRS for MWDs. Since the dogs were originally procured by Vohne Liche Kennels for the Army, no form appears to have ever been issued. This essentially excluded all history of the TEDD handlers from their MWD’s record. In other words, TEDD handlers’, as a group, are erased from their MWD’s lives, because, it seems, a conscious decision was made by OPMG to delete TEDD history and, thereby, deny priority to these specific handlers. What could be the purpose of removing TEDD handlers from the MWDs’ records other than to provide plausible deniability to the kennel masters who transferred the dogs to non-handlers? The history of the dogs reveals multiple instances of the adoption of former TEDDs at Army installations, from Ft. Bragg to Ft. Sill to Ft. Lewis, to non-handlers, even if the TEDD handler previously filed an adoption form. In one Ft. Sill adoption, a active duty friend of the adopter knew of the handler’s search, but he gave only a general update on the dog refusing to respond to request for photos of or specific information related to the condition of his former partner, while belittling the TEDD handlers as a group. Now this MWD is dead, very possibly due to the inattention of the adopter to the dog’s health. What makes this particular case even more disheartening is that the TEDD handler, attuned to his dog’s health, saved this MWD during their deployment, because he recognized the signs of bloat. Sadly, the non-handler adopter apparently failed to identify these same symptoms and, this time, the handler’s beloved dog died an agonizing death, deprived of the necessary medical attention. A Ft. Sill vet tech who we contacted stated that the dog was stricken with bloat even before being adopted. Why a kennel master would permit the adoption of a dog with a history of bloat to such an unknowledgeable individual seems indefensible and reinforces why the exclusion of handlers continues to be a tragedy for both these courageous men and their dogs.
- During our investigation into the TEDD adoptions, we researched the various policies and procedures related to adoptions, records for MWDs, and MWD classification in general. There was no central clearinghouse for the TEDD handlers to call for updates on their dogs. TEDD records were not stored in the Working Dog Management System (WDMS) unless the TEDD MWD was transferred for use in another military capacity such as a PEDD role. Data was apparently only kept in spreadsheets, and we have found numerous inconsistencies.
We are greatly concerned about the discrepancies between the AFI 23-126 (effective during the 2014 adoptions), AFI 31-126 (effective 1 June 2015), and Army 190-12 (effective 1 March 2013).
The AFI 23-126_IP clearly states in bold capital letters, “COMPLIANCE WITH THIS PUBLICATION IS MANDATORY” and “Unless otherwise noted, the guidance and procedures outlined in this instruction apply to all active Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps organizations as appropriate within the United States, its territories and in foreign countries. Additionally, this Inter-Service/Multi-Service Instruction applies to each Service’s Reserves, National Guard, Government owned-contractor operated facilities, direct reporting units (DRU) and field operating agencies (FOA) not located on DOD installations and any other federal agency electing to participate in the DOD MWD program.”
The AFI 23-126 states:
Adopted, transferred or deceased MWDs should be removed from accountable records of the owning installation/fleet command according to appropriate materiel management directives, within 15 days of adoption, transfer or death (includes euthanasia). The MWDs original DD Form 1834, (Service Record), should have the final disposition and date boxes annotated; Covenant Not to Sue; or DD Form 1743 (Death Certificate), should be provided to the 341 TRS. A copy of DD Form 1834 and/or DD Form 1743 should be maintained and forwarded to the 341 TRS/DOL Central Repository, 1239 Knight Street, JBSA-Lackland, TX, 78236-5151 for retention. In the event of death, a copy of the DD Form 1743 may be faxed or emailed to the 341 TRS/DOL Central Repository, 1239 Knight Street, JBSA Lackland, TX, 78236-5151 for retention. In the case of an adoption or transfer, a copy of the “Covenant not to Sue with Indemnity Agreement” (Attachment 7, Adoptions, and Attachment 8, Law Enforcement) should be faxed or emailed to the 341 TRS for retention by the adoption/disposition coordinator, (MWD.Disposition@us.af.mil). (Refer to AFI 48-131, AR 40-905, SECNAVINST 6401.1B, Veterinary Health Services, for regulatory guidance for disposition of medical records.)
Knowing that the DD Form 1834 was apparently not utilized since the TEDD dogs did not originate from the 341st TRS, what other forms and procedures outlined in AFI 23-126 were not used or followed? So many considered the TEDD program “temporary” and the MWDs not worthy of being assigned a National Stock Number (NSN), even though the “temporary” IDD program MWDs had received them. There is an NSN for single purpose (non-patrol trained) explosive detection dogs. Why couldn’t the TEDD MWDs use this NSN? We understand that many regulations were not followed during wartime. The TEDDs and IDDs were a response to Universal Urgent Needs Statements (UUNS) from the warfighter. They, along with metal detectors, up-armoring for HUMVs, forensic kits, etc., all fall under the same rules.
Until there is a full and complete investigation, no one can clearly state why this disparate treatment to the TEDD handlers happened.