The Department of Defense's report condemning the Army's treatment of former military dogs and their handlers failed to address accusations that some of the dogs were given to a private company that planned to sell them to foreign governments.
The scheme, uncovered by the Washington Free Beacon last year, separated handlers from the dogs with whom they served and hoped to adopt before ultimately collapsing. The plan involved an international security contractor, the former assistant director of the Secret Service, and two men who claimed to be Secret Service agents. It inflicted untold emotional distress on a number of veterans and their families while leaving the kennel owner who nursed the K9s back to health teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
Army specialist Jake Carlberg and his dog Abby were one of the teams caught up in the ordeal. After spending over a year together in Afghanistan sniffing out bombs at a rate that made them one of the top dog teams in the area they were deployed, their bond seemed unbreakable.
"He would always say that she was his best friend," Glenna Carlberg, Jake’s wife, told the Free Beacon last year. "They searched for bombs for his company. … They found seven."
The Army, however, didn't see the bond between the two as unbreakable. In violation of its own policy, it sent Abby and a dozen other military working dogs to a private company named Soliden Technologies. Soliden planned to sell them to foreign countries.
The Department of Defense's report on the mishandled dog adoptions briefly mentions Soliden's role in the scandal. It shows that the private company adopted nearly as many dogs as were adopted by former handlers. This was despite the fact that investigators could find no evidence that the company trained service dogs, as they promised the Army they would.
"Furthermore, the Army’s disposition records did not indicate that Soliden had plans to use the TEDDs [tactical explosive detector dogs] it adopted as service dogs," the DOD report reads. "Soliden was not an LEA [law enforcement agency] or other government agency, and the Army MWD PM [military working dog provost marshal] categorized the Soliden MWD adoptions as civilian adoptions. Of the 13 dogs Soliden Technologies adopted, all six males and three of the females had no record of neutering, as required by the Joint MWD Instruction, and two of the dogs had been specifically requested by former handlers who had expressed a desire to adopt a TEDD."
It's unclear if Carlberg is one of the handlers identified in the report or not but his wife said, and email records show, the couple had been in contact with the Army to try and adopt Abby. They had even been able to contact Soliden after the Army gave Abby to them and were promised on a number of occasions that they could have her back. Those promises all ended up being broken.
On Feb. 12, 2015, two years after the Army had given Abby away to Soliden, Carlberg was killed in a car accident. The two were never reunited.
As Jake Carlberg was being told his K9 partner was in Michigan or Panama or Ecuador, she was really at a small kennel name Mount Hope in Virginia. Kennel owner Greg Meredith told the Free Beacon that a number of men associated with Soliden and international security contractor Nastec offered him a contract to rehabilitate and care for the dogs while they secured foreign contracts for them. Instead of payment, Meredith said he received threats and a demand to dispose of the dogs he interpreted as a request to kill them.
"According to the [Office of the Provost Marshal], Soliden Technologies left the 13 TEDDs at a kennel facility in Virginia without payment for their support," the DOD report said in summing up Meredith's ordeal. "Essentially, the company abandoned the dogs to the kennel owner."
Meredith said DOD investigators had not contacted him while putting together their report. "Nope," he told the Free Beacon. "Not a word."
The report does acknowledge that instead of disposing of the dogs as Soliden and Nastec requested, Meredith worked to find the dogs' handlers and reunite them. His efforts were mostly successful. One dog, Dakota, who Meredith said was taken out of his custody early on by Soliden, remains to be united with its handler but the others have either been adopted or given back to their handlers.
Though Abby was never reunited with Jake, she was reunited with his wife and children. Glenna said a part of him lives on through her. "It definitely helps my oldest child, who’s about to be six, because he feels like the rest of us do: that we have a part of Jake there," she said last year. "Abby was with him and they did so much together that it feels like having a piece of him."
The DOD report recommended that the Army update and enforce its regulation for the handling of military dog adoptions to ensure they aren't mishandled in the future as well as recommending the Air Force update its own regulation for oversight of such adoptions. The report makes no recommendations on what the Army should do about those who allowed the Soliden adoptions to happen. Meredith said the report's recommendations weren't good enough.
"They are not being responsible for their actions," Meredith told the Free Beacon. "They cost a lot of people a lot of money with their negligence. So, how and what are they going to do to repay the ones that did the right thing and spent all their money when none of this needed to or should have happened?"
Meredith said that he has not been able to collect on the judgment against Soliden he received last year and has remained in a state of financial hardship since the ordeal ended. "I got back current on my mortgage with help from family and selling off most of my stuff. But I have nothing left to sell and my family is tapped out. I still owe a lot to others that have helped. We are trying to sell the property but if it’s not sold soon I will have to surrender it and will have lost any equity and have nothing. We need help now very much."
A fundraiser set up to help Mount Hope stave off bankruptcy has raised just under a third of its goal.
Betsy Hampton, the founder of Justice for TEDD Handlers, which cooperated with the investigators, said the report was not the resolution her group had hoped for.
"Yeah, I'm glad they did the report, but there's a huge amount not mentioned," she told the Free Beacon. "I gave them access to all of our documents and also gave them a summary to reference. It seems rather generic without any resolution for the handlers."