These weren't your typical family pets that died. These were specially trained bomb sniffing K-9s headed for Afghanistan.
The dogs died almost one year ago. Fourteen of them in all, trained to detect explosives. They were supposed to go to Afghanistan to work with troops fighting the Taliban. Instead, they never made it out of the country. And this week, the company that trained them is suing.
The lawsuit filed this week says American K-9 Detection Services, Inc. based in Florida, is suing Animal Port Houston among others, alleging that 14 of its trained explosive detection dogs died in APH's care.
The lawsuit alleges the animals were headed to Afghanistan and missed their flight last December. They were sent back here to this address near IAH. But instead of being kenneled or housed in their carriers outside the kennel, the lawsuit says the 14 dogs were left in a sealed box truck and in the morning were found dead. The truck's cooling unit was not working and the temperature of the cooling unit apparently read 77 degrees.
Harris County Sheriff's K-9 Deputy John Palermo works and lives with Rico, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois and has some perspective on what those 14 dogs would have meant to the troops in Afghanistan.
"Basically same thing they mean to us. I mean, if you work with an animal for so long you build a bond with that dog and I'm sure they care for those dogs just like we care for ours," said Deputy Palermo.
He hadn't heard about the lawsuit until today, but says working dogs like Rico are partners on the street and in the war zone.
Live Animal Transportation Services, LLC is now at that address where Animal Port Houston was. The owner did not want to talk on camera because it too is named in the lawsuit. He did tell us off camera that LATS is a completely different company and not associated with Animal Port Houston.
The lawsuit asks Animal Port Houston to pay back the cost of the dogs -- K-9s for Cops says they can run about $15,000 a piece -- plus all court costs, attorney fees and more.
American K-9 Detection Services released a statement which read,
- "On December 21, 2010, American K-9 Detection Services, Inc. (AMK9) learned that fourteen of its contract working dogs (CWDs) died while on route to Afghanistan. The CWDs died while in the custody of a third-party shipper. AMK9 is actively investigating the actions and events that led to this tragedy; the remains of the CWDs have been sent to the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratories for examination.
AMK9 is in the business of providing world-class canine security services to governmental, non-governmental and private entities worldwide. Prior to this tragedy, hundreds of canines have been deployed without incident.
The safety, security, and comfort of our CWDs are of great importance to our Company. In honor of the deceased canines, a memorial service was held at the Hill Country Dog Center, in Pipe Creek, Texas. At the service, AMK9 personnel dedicated a stone monument honoring the fourteen CWDs and other fallen canines."