Operation Baghdad Pups

May 1, 2008 9:02:32 PM PDT
Servicemen and women overseas are finding comfort with abandoned and injured animals in the war zone. Their bond with them is often so strong, that some soldiers are seeking help bringing their furry companions home.

"Operation Baghdad Pups" began with a desperate e-mail from a soldier who wanted to take home the dog his Army regiment discovered, while on patrol in Iraq.

Within a month, many more military personnel were asking for help, getting animals that had become their companions, out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The latest group of animals from the region arrived on a flight that originated in Baghdad. Our cameras were rolling as their paws first touched U.S. soil.

"We are lucky we got her out when we did."

At 7:00 am at Dulles International Airport, outside Washington Action News waited an hour as the special passengers on the flight from Kuwait; went through customs.

Pam (we can't reveal her full name for security reasons) is so excited, she said she feels like she's anticipating a family member.

"It does, I'm just really elated she's here."

And finally she arrives!

"Hey precious, oh isn't she gorgeous," gushed Pam when she got her first glimpse of Hope.

Hope and Jasmine are the first cats ever transported from Iraq to the U.S. through "Operation Baghdad Pups".

Traveling with them is their canine companion, Kujo.

Pam's husband, a project supervisor in Baghdad, rescued Hope after the kitten was badly burned riding under a supply truck.

"He scooped her right up and took her to the medic," Pam explained.

Her husband nursed Hope back to health; that's when she noticed a big difference in his mood.

"I finally saw him smiling and laughing during our web cam conferences," Pam said. "The first thing he said was 'I have a cat, a kitty'. 'She's the best company I have right now'".

Pam's husband didn't want to leave Hope behind when he returns home to Fredericksburg, Virginia, next week. So Pam contacted SPCA International & Terri Crisp who said the logistics of transporting an animal from the war zone, back to the U.S., is complicated.

"We are very much dependent on TMG, which is a security company that we hire in Baghdad. They're actually the ones who go out and pick up the animals," Terri explained. "I fly over on an airline called Griffin and pick them up at the airport and bring them back."

Before any animals leave Iraq, they must be vaccinated for at least 30 days, which can be difficult, as there aren't many veterinarians in Iraq.

Once in this country they go straight to an American vet and then nearly all of the animals need a real good bath!

Danielle Berger brought K-Pot to her home in Sewell, Gloucester County, two months ago. Her brother, a U.S. Army medic in Iraq, adopted him as a small puppy. The dog got its name after it was found snuggled in a K-Pot, a Kevlar Protection helmet.

"It gave my brother something else to put his attention on other than what was going on in the war," Danielle said.

Danielle is dog-sitting until her brother returns from his tour of duty. Her two young songs love K-Pot, & the only thing K-Pot loves more than them is rolling in the green grass in their backyard; something he didn't experience in Iraq. She has nothing but praise for SPCA International.

"They worked diligently and endlessly to get him here."

"This is our way of saying thank-you to these soldiers and marines," Terri said.

It can be expensive to bring even one animal to the U.S. The airfare alone can be $1200, but the soldier pays nothing.

And, SPCA International said every animal that comes through its program, lives with a soldier or family member here and each must be spade or neutered.

"Operation Baghdad Pups" is supported through public donations. Click here if you would like to help.

Criteria for an Animal to be Accepted into Operation Baghdad Pups
After doing extensive research, SPCA International has established the following criteria in order for an animal to be accepted into the program:

*Animals must be living in either Iraq or Afghanistan under the care of a United States military person or military contract worker.

*Cats and dogs must have been found originally when a kitten or puppy under the age of three months. Exceptions will be considered for older cats and dogs.

*Animals must have been raised by one military person/contract worker or belong to a military unit and be considered their mascot. If the animal is a military mascot to a unit one person from that unit has to be willing to give the animal a permanent home in order for it to be considered for the program.

*Animals must have been in the continuous care of a military person or belong to a military unit for at least two months.

*Animals must already have a permanent home to go to in the United States in order to be considered for the program.

*Animals cannot be going to an animal organization/shelter in the United States in hopes the animal will be adopted.

*Dogs cannot go to homes where they will be allowed to roam free or be chained for the majority of the time.

*Dogs can never have been a part of a pack. Dogs that have been a part of a pack for less then a month may be considered.

*Cats may not be considered depending on the likelihood of him/her not adapting to living indoors. It is always preferred that a cat be an indoor cat as there are numerous risks to the cat if it were to live just outdoors. This risk increases depending on the neighborhood where it will be living.

*Feral cats and dogs are not eligible for the program.

*Animals must be well socialized with people and preferably other animals.

*Animals that have been regularly tormented, especially by children, require special consideration before being accepted into the program.

*Animals cannot show any signs of aggression.

*Dogs with severe food aggression require special consideration before being accepted into the program. If they display this type of behavior they will more then likely have to go to a single animal home.