East Tennessee woman stays in Afghanistan to save military contract dogs

The Clinton native is working to evacuate military contract dogs left in Afghanistan following the American withdrawal.

An East Tennessee woman said she refused multiple opportunities to escape Afghanistan in an effort to save military contract dogs left behind during the hasty American withdrawal.

Clinton, Tennessee native Charlotte Maxwell-Jones is the director and founder of Kabul Small Animal Rescue in Kabul, Afghanistan, where she has lived for 11 years.

She said she’s staying behind until roughly 130 dogs, about 50 of which are military contract dogs, are safely evacuated.

“They’re my responsibility and I love them and I care for them. I think there’s a less chance of recovering them if I’m not here,” said Maxwell-Jones.

Maxwell-Jones told WVLT News that military contract dogs, like working dogs owned by the military, are trained to sniff bombs and perform crucial tasks to help neutralize threats for U.S. troops while overseas. However, she said that military contract dogs aren’t given the same priority as military dogs.

The main difference between a contract dog and a military dog is who owns it. According to Department of Defense spokesperson Eric Pahon, contract dogs are hired from outside companies to do work for the military, but the military does not own them.

Since the military does not own the contract animals or have access to their health records, they must take charter flights, not military ones, out of the country, Pahon told WVLT News. However, he did confirm that the department has worked with Kabul Small Animal Rescue to move the contract dogs into a safer, fenced in area.

Officials with the Military Working Dog Team Support Association said that they are confident that all military working dogs were evacuated.

Department of Defense Spokesperson Eric Pahon told WVLT News that all military dogs were removed from Afghanistan.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby made a similar statement on Twitter, saying that U.S. military dogs were not left behind at the Kabul airport. He referenced the above photos circulating online and said they showed dogs under the care of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue, not 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,” the post read.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a temporary suspension on the importing of dogs from Afghanistan, since it is a high-risk country for dog rabies. However, Maxwell-Jones is trying to get an exemption so she can evacuate dogs from the country. If an exemption isn’t granted, the Clinton native said those animals would go to Canada for six months to quarantine.

Department of Defense Spokesperson Eric Pahon told WVLT News the DOD had military contract dogs working in Afghanistan but couldn’t confirm whether any of those dogs are among the animals under the care of Kabul Small Animal Rescue.

It’s not just the roughly 50 military contract dogs Maxwell-Jones is trying to evacuate. Maxwell-Jones said her rescue is also working to get another 80 dogs, 75 cats, two sheep, and two parrots out of the country.

Maxwell-Jones estimated she could safely evacuate with the animals sometime within the coming weeks.

Maxwell-Jones said she was at the Kabul airport the day explosions killed 13 U.S. service members. She described that scene as a loud nightmare.