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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Not much scares Sgt. Ryan Henderson except maybe the first time he saw his military dog — an all black German Shepard named Satan.
An instructor held Satan’s leash, eager to pair the two up. “He goes, ‘Hey tough guy come here there’s your dog, that’s Satan.’ I was like ‘oh man,’ ” said Henderson, laughing that he’s the only Christian with the name ‘Satan’ now tattooed on his arm.
Satan ended up dragging Henderson all around training that first day. [editor’s note: This is the first of several times the military dog handler teared up during his interview.]
“Yeah, it hurts but it’s almost like it hurts because it’s such a good memory,” said Henderson.
Henderson and Satan were in the U.S. Army program called TEDD or Tactical Explosive Detector Dog. They were in Afghanistan detecting bombs side-by-side for eight months. “You’re bonded with the dog because there’s nothing more American than a dog. A soldier and a dog, you know? You can’t help being close,” said Henderson.
After surviving countless missions with Satan by his side, something less sinister than war, but just as lethal almost took Henderson out. “Next thing I know is, I was in a hospital in Germany and they told me I had a grand mal seizure,” said Henderson. A grand mal seizure features a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. Doctors blamed it on repetitive concussion syndrome. When Henderson came-to, “The first question I asked was ‘where’s my dog,’ ” he said.
Henderson was told Satan was with a fellow handler. When Henderson retired from the military in 2013 he started the process of trying to adopt Satan. He eventually contacted K2, the North Carolina dog training contracted by the Army to house the TEDD dogs for one year. “I was told his second handler had adopted him and that was the best news I was going to get. I was stupid enough to believe it and it killed me,” said Henderson.
But that wasn’t true.
According to dozens of military dog handlers and lawmakers Satan and more than 100 other military dogs were adopted out to agencies and civilians through several public and private events in 2014. The handlers said they were never notified; never given the chance to adopt their dogs.
“My email and phone number hasn’t changed since before I joined the Army,” said Henderson.
The process was overseen by the Army’s Office of the Provost Marshall General. A statement on K2’s website regarding the adoption scandal reads in part:
K2 played no role and had no say in the adoption process of any of the dogs. K2 simply turned the dogs over to the government-approved recipients. It must be emphasized that the TEDD dogs never “belonged” to K2, and that no one affiliated with K2 was compensated as a result of the adoption process. Nor did we retain any of the dogs for use in any other program. Any inquiries regarding the adoption of the TEDDs should be directed to Office of the Provost Marshall General of the United States Army.
“The Army had the paperwork from the soldiers who had been the handlers who requested to adopt these dogs. For some reason this paper work was ignored,” said Congressman Richard Hudson of North Carolina.
Congressman Hudson has reunited at least one solider and his dog and has called for a formal investigation into what happened by the inspector general. “The shame of this is that the Army didn’t follow the law Congress laid out,” he said.
Robby’s Law, passed in 2000, states adoptable retired working dogs may be adopted by law enforcement agencies, former handlers and the public. Editor’s Note: Not noted in the video above, congress changed the wording of the law in 2015 from “may” to “shall” and changed the preference of who has priority — putting former handlers first – (see section 342 here – congress.gov).
“I believed it, I believed that the Army was going to do what they said they would do because I did what I said I would do,” said Henderson.
Turns out Satan was adopted to a family in North Carolina, whose patriarch is retired military.
Henderson has this message for Satan’s new owners: “I don’t know how to thank you enough for taking care of him, I just want him back. You can be in his life all you want.”
Henderson has reached out to Satan’s family, and offered to pay them $5,000 plus the cost of a pure-bred German Shepard of their choice. But the family has refused the offer. They told CBS11 by phone they did not want to do an on-camera interview. They said the Army told them his handlers didn’t want him when they adopted Satan. They said they found out Satan’s handler wanted him 16 months after the adoption. They said they love Satan very much and have no plans of giving him up.
A spokesman from the U.S. Army responded to several questions by CBS11 but did not answer why all the handlers in the TEDD program weren’t contacted before the adoptions.
Advocates from the Justice for TEDD Handlers Facebook page told CBS11 that action is needed. “We want those responsible for the TEDD adoption mismanagement to be held accountable, and the illegal adoptions to be voided,” said creator Betsy Hampton.
Here’s how the conversation went:
CBS11: Who was in charge of the adoption of the dogs after the TEDD program ended?
U.S.Army: The Army’s Office of the Provost Marshal General (OPMG) developed the disposition plan for the approximately 229 TEDDs in theater and in training at the contract facility. It was the Provost Marshall General who modified the prioritization of adoptions to give former handlers priority over law enforcement agencies. Given that these are highly trained and specialized dogs, there is strong demand within the law enforcement community, but the PMG recognized the unique attachment between a dog and its handers.
CBS11: Who, if anyone, from the OPMG was on site at K2 to facilitate the adoptions?
U.S.Army: Staff members from the OPMG were on site at K2 at the end of TEDD program. Of the 229 TEDDs, 40 were placed with former handlers, and 70 were retained by the Army and transferred to Army units. The remaining 119 TEDDs were made available for adoption at no cost to the individual or agency adopting the dogs.
CBS11: Why weren’t the handlers notified the dogs were up for adoption?
U.S.Army: They were notified. TEDD handlers were given the opportunity to adopt TEDDs that were not required to fill Army working dog shortages. An OPMG representative attempted to contact former TEDD handlers who expressed interest in adopting a TEDD prior to the termination of the TEDD contract. As a result, the Army was able to successfully reunite 40 handlers with their former TEDDs.
CBS11: What procedures, if any, have changed to correct this issue?
U.S.Army: We remain grateful for the sacrifices of our military working dogs and to those who support and work alongside them. OPMG, in conjunction with our sister services, is in the process of modifying current procedures regarding notifications to former handlers in accordance with the recent revisions to the law. It is our intent that all former dog handlers be given the right of first refusal during future adoption processes. Editors Note: The U.S. Army contacted CBS 11 after this story aired with the following information:
The Office of the Provost Marshal attempted to contact all former handlers who had expressed an interest in adopting their dogs. The Army did its best to contact former handlers in order to reunite them with their former dog—even though there nor was no legal or regulatory requirement to do so. The PMG is working diligently to identify the lessons learned from the TEDD adoption process as well as the recent changes to Robby’s Law in order to codify and clarify former handler tracking and notification procedures for future adoptions.
Adoptions to civilian personnel over the objections of a former handler were not illegal, and thus the Army has no legal basis to void those adoptions. There were no provisions of the 2000 version of Robby’s Law mandating adoptions to former handlers vice civilian personnel meeting the adoption requirements.
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