By Mindy Campbell, U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern December 17, 2012
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - A German landlord entered a recently vacated home and found Sammy, a hungry and thirsty six-week old puppy left behind by his owner - a young Army specialist who moved stateside.
Unfortunately, heartbreaking stories like Sammy's - of abandonment and neglect - are not uncommon among the Kaiserslautern Military Community, according to U.S. and German officials.
Ellie was left home alone when her American owner vacationed in the States. The two-year-old Saint Bernard was already known to German authorities, who had reports of abuse that included the dog tethered by a short leash on a porch, long weekend left alone and daylong spells in a kennel.
And then there is Snort, a dog offered for adoption by an American family. He's 14 months old and already has had three different owners.
These are just a few of several animal abandonment or abuse cases investigated in the last six months that involved American owners, said Kathy Hutter, a customs investigator for U.S. Army in Kaiserslautern.
She attributes the recent rise in cases to Germans reporting incidents. The issue has gotten so bad, she said, that some off-post animal shelters now refuse to accept abandoned American pets or let them adopt animals.
Ralf Heieck, who runs the Hundezentrum- Westpfalz, a local dog school, has received calls from U.S. security forces to help with troubled hounds. Some Americans rely on friends to look after their dog when they go on trips, Heieck said, which often ends badly, he said. Recently, a vacationing American service member left her dog with a friend, the dog escaped, was hit by a car and died. But her problems didn't end there.
"The owner (came) back from the States and now she must pay a lot of money to fix the car," he said.
U.S. military and German authorities hope pet owners in KMC members turn to community resources, both on and off post, to help them take care better of their pets. Many times, pet owners aren't mean or deliberately trying to hurt an animal. They just may be overwhelmed and don't know a better way out, Hutter said.
"There is no reason to abandon an animal," said Hutter. "There are places to go, places to ask. There are people here to help you."
Jourdan Morrison, an Air Force spouse, was scared of Avery, a seven-month old German Shepherd that she adopted. She was the dog's third owner and he was behaving badly. Neither previous owner took time to train Avery, she said.
"So, when we got him, he was aggressive and dominant -- all the typical troubles of someone who didn't socialize their dog at an early age," said Morrison, who enrolled Avery in a German school that's helped the dog improve.
In the KMC area, there are many boarding kennels and dog schools. Private animal protection associations, such as Tierhilfe Pfalz, can help find new homes for pets.
On post, the KMC has two dog parks for dogs to go off leash and exercise. Vogelweh's dog park is behind the housing area, near Kaiserslautern Elementary School. Ramstein's dog park is in the northwest corner of housing area, between buildings 841 and 844.
Dog training is offered on Saturday at the Rod and Gun Club behind Vogelweh. Classes are for dogs of all ages. Some classes address specific problems such as chewing or potty training.
"There are more people here who love their dogs and take care of their dogs," Hutter said. "But, a lot of people handle dogs as an object. They just forget to think, dogs have a heart. They have a soul."