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Keeping Dogs Cool

HSUS, HSI help Army working dogs in Afghanistan

Dog Afghanistan Cooling Vest

Photo provided by Maj. Donna DeBonis

Responding to a request from an Army veterinary officer in Afghanistan, The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, in collaboration with the 50 Degree Company and FedEx, arranged to provide much-needed relief from the extreme heat that military working dogs serving in Afghanistan have to endure.

Hot dogs

Maj. Donna DeBonis was in charge of about 100 working dogs at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, where ambient temperatures can reach 130 degrees in daytime. Besides suffering heat stroke, the dogs have also had to deal with enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine) brought on by food that spoils quickly in the crushing heat.

Army veterinarians, medics, and dog handlers had been working gallantly to combat the effects of heat exhaustion and rancid food, but it was clear to Maj. DeBonis that the effects of the extreme working conditions needed to be addressed up front, and she turned to the nation’s largest animal protection organization for help.

Cooling off

In response, The HSUS and its international arm, HSI, arranged to purchase 75 cooling pads and 25 cooling vests with additional cooling packs from the 50 Degree Company, while FedEx generously offered to ship them to Afghanistan for free. The vests help keep the dogs cool by absorbing excess heat from their bodies, allowing them to better regulate their own body temperature. The vests contain a place for inserts that, once charged in ice and water, can reach a temperature of 50 degrees.

The vests and packs enable the dogs to keep working safely for hours without the health risks associated from overheating, while the pads will enable their handlers to carry food with them and avoid spoilage. They also serve as cool resting pads for the dogs.

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"Here in southern Afghanistan we all face the highest temperatures imaginable," said Maj. Debonis, who has since been re-deployed to her home station in Washington State. Our military working dogs are wearing essentially fur coats, so they are extremely prone to heat exhaustion. I am very grateful for the donations from the 50 Degree Company, Humane Society International, and FedEx. These products are exceptional in that they are safe to use, perform as advertised, and will save the lives of the military working dogs.

"Humane Society International is very pleased to be able to help, in some small way, the dogs who serve beside their human handlers to make a dangerous and difficult deployment safer for all," said Andrew Rowan, Ph.D, president and CEO of HSI.

Support troops

The HSUS and HSI had addressed this issue before, providing assistance to military working dogs in the Middle East. In 2003, the organizations responded to a request from a North Carolina animal protection group to provide cooling vests for dogs from Camp Lejeune, N.C., who were deployed with their Marine Corps handlers to Iraq in the early days of that war.
The HSUS and HSI wish to express their gratitude to Kathryn Doherty of the 50 Degree Company for generously discounting the price of their products for this mission of mercy, and to FedEx Express and the staff of Federal Express Corporate Contributions for providing complimentary shipping of these supplies to Afghanistan.