In the News

Lifesaving Dogs Return Home from Afghanistan for Retirement

Group photo

Media Contact: Tycie Horsley

Washington, DC, March 12, 2015 – On March 10, 2015, Seneca Hill Animal Hospital, Resort and Spa hosted an event at their facility in Great Falls, VA to celebrate the retirement and repatriation of 21 life-saving Mine Detection Dogs (MDDs) from Afghanistan. These dogs recently arrived in the U.S. to join families from around the country who are opening up their hearts and homes to these incredibly deserving dogs. Over the past three weeks, Seneca Hill has been providing all of the MDDs that arrived in DC with excellent veterinary care and boarding in their beautiful, world-class kennel. These remarkable animals have spent the past six to eight years ‘sniffing out’ landmines and saving lives in Afghanistan, and they are now being adopted by American families through an innovative partnership between the Marshall Legacy Institute (www.marshall-legacy.org), the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) (www.state.gov/t/pm/wra), SPCA International (www.spcai.org), Mission K9 (www.missionk9rescue.org), and Seneca Hill Animal Hospital Resort and Spa (www.senecahillvet.com).

For more than a quarter of a century Seneca Hill has been providing compassionate, quality pet care in the Greater Washington Area. Seneca Hill is a family-owned, state-of-the-art pet care facility where veterinarians, technicians, doggie day care specialists, grooming stylists, swim instructors, and dog trainers are all committed to excellence in pet care and client service. The owners of Seneca Hill, Dr. Janice Homan and John Homan, have been strong supporters of the Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI) for the past twelve years and insisted on supporting the retirement of the canine heroes upon their arrival in the United States. The Homans and their staff have worked tirelessly over the past several weeks to ensure that the dogs arriving in DC acclimated to their new surroundings and were given any needed veterinary care. John Homan stated that he was thrilled to be able to “support MLI’s humanitarian work and to be able to play a meaningful role in the lives of these heroic dogs when they first arrived in the U.S.”

The Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI) is a Virginia-based 501c3 non-profit organization that was founded in 1997 to extend the vision and legacy of General George Marshall and the Marshall Plan. MLI emphasizes local capacity-building and helping countries help themselves, and its largest and most well-known program is the Mine Detection Dog Partnership Program, which donates lifesaving dogs to the neediest of war-torn countries, while also training & equipping local handlers to safely and effectively employ the dogs in national landmine clearance programs. During the past 18 years, MLI has donated 200 highly-trained MDDs to 11 war-torn countries. By accelerating the rate at which land is cleared, the MDD teams not only save lives, but also positively impact the socio-economic growth of fragile post-conflict countries. With a working life of six to eight years, dogs are vital, long term assets in indigenous demining programs. When the dogs are ready for retirement, MLI ensures that each MDD receives the proper care and loving home it deserves in recognition of its heroic service. None of MLI’s MDDs have been lost during a demining operation.

Since 2007, MLI and the U.S. Department of State have donated dozens of life-saving MDDs to four indigenous demining organizations in Afghanistan to save and improve the lives of Afghan citizens. After many years of wonderful service, twenty-one of these dogs were ready for retirement. All MLI-donated dogs were sponsored by private Americans, including schoolchildren. The MDDs were specially trained by the Global Training Academy in Texas and the Mine Dog Center in Afghanistan to detect the explosive odors found in landmines. Landmines continue to plague much of Afghanistan: the result of multiple conflicts spanning more than 30 years. Because these weapons of war are buried and can remain active & dangerous for decades, they are often difficult to find and continue to kill & injure hundreds of innocent men, women, and children each year. MDDs have been working safely and effectively in Afghanistan to locate these mines for destruction.

During their years of service with the Afghan demining organizations, these heroic dogs and their handlers searched and helped clear thousands of acres of mine-contaminated land throughout Afghanistan. In just the past three years, MLI-donated dogs searched 1,415 acres! This land, now free of mines, is available to Afghan communities for farming, grazing, return of refugees & internally displaced, infrastructure development, and other safe activities. Although Afghanistan continues to suffer from landmines and other explosive remnants of war, these dogs have truly helped to make Afghanistan a safer and better place, and now deserve to spend their golden years relaxing in the comfort of loving homes.

With support from the U.S. Department of State, MLI coordinated their return from Afghanistan to the United States and worked with Mission K9 and SPCA International to place the dogs with caring adoption families throughout the country. Seneca Hill Animal Hospital, Resort and Spa opened its doors and hearts to these dogs when they arrived in DC and ensured they had a warm reception and the very best of veterinary care. They hosted the ceremony on March 10th to celebrate the work accomplished by the retiring Mine Detection Dogs, as well as their successful repatriation to the United States where they are joining excellent homes.

During the ceremony, Perry F. Baltimore, the President and CEO of the Marshall Legacy Institute, spoke to the gathered audience about the work these dogs accomplished in Afghanistan, and presented the Homans and their staff with a plaque and certificates of appreciation as a small gesture of thanks for their overwhelming generosity. Steve Costner, Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA), then addressed the audience, sharing the State Department’s role in helping to retire the 21 MDDs and his office’s strong support for demining operations in Afghanistan. He stated that MLI is one of the original five organizations that the State Department has partnered with since 1997 to do this sort of work around the world. Each of the retired dogs that remained at Seneca Hill was then brought out for photos with the audience members, including the sponsors of the dogs, the new adopters, and the State Department, MLI, and Seneca Hill staff. Following the ceremony, most of the dogs left with their adopters to go to their new homes, with only two dogs remaining at Seneca Hill to await their pick-up later this week.

For more information about Mine Detection Dogs and the Marshall Legacy Institute’s life-saving programs around the world, please visit www.marshall-legacy.org or email info@marshall-legacy.org.

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