TROOPS BETRAYED AS ARMY DUMPS HUNDREDS OF HEROIC WAR DOGS
In 2012, Daniel and about 18 other soldiers boarded a flight back to North Carolina; their deployment was over.
Waiting on the tarmac were employees from a North Carolina-based company, K2 Solutions, which had the government contract for their highly trained warrior-dogs. Within moments of deplaning, the handlers got to pat their dogs on the head, say their goodbyes, then watch as the dogs — and all their equipment, down to their shredded leashes — were boarded on a truck and driven away.
“It’s a bunch of infantry guys, and no one wants to be the first to start crying,” Daniel says. “But it didn’t take long. There wasn’t a dry eye.”
The only solace these soldiers had was the knowledge that they could apply to adopt their dogs, and that the passage of Robby’s Law in November 2000 would protect that right.
More than three years later, Daniel still doesn’t have Oogie. The dog has vanished.
Daniel, who doesn’t want to use his real name because he’s on active duty, is one of at least 200 military handlers whose dogs were secretly dumped out to civilians by K2 Solutions in February 2014, a Post investigation has found.
At least three government workers were also involved and may have taken dogs for themselves.
It’s a scandal that continues to this day, with hundreds of handlers still searching for their dogs — and the Army, the Pentagon and K2 Solutions covering up what happened, and what may still be happening.
On Feb. 10, 2014, one of many adoption events was held on the grounds of K2 Solutions in Southern Pines, NC. The Army had recently ended its TEDD (Tactical Explosive Detection Dogs) program, and word quietly got out that “bomb dogs” would be available to civilians.
In quiet, well-manicured Southern Pines, K2 is a glamorous company. They own huge tracts of land where they covertly train dogs for combat, counterterrorism and catastrophes that will probably never occur in North Carolina. K2’s owner, Lane Kjellsen, is a cryptic figure who claims to be ex-special forces.
Multiple handlers told The Post that they have called and e-mailed K2 repeatedly about their dogs, submitting adoption paperwork as they were instructed to do. Yet they have been given little to no information, and at times deliberate misdirection, they say. Finding military dogs isn’t hard: They all have microchips, and the TEDD dogs have serial numbers tattooed on their ears.
“I called K2 in March 2014,” says a handler who asked to remain anonymous. “I said, ‘Can you please help me find my dog?’ They said, ‘No. ”
After months of obfuscation, many handlers give up, and they believe that’s what K2, and some in the Army, want. “I have PTSD and traumatic brain injury,” says Ryan Henderson, who has been searching for his dog, Satan, since 2014. “There are mornings I wake up with anxiety attacks. Dealing with normal life is more than I can handle anyway.”
Henderson says K2 told him Satan had been adopted by his second handler “and they could not give me his information due to privacy laws.”
He believes there’s a thriving black market for the dogs.
“On Feb. 7, I got a call from my dear friend . . . who asked me to help her with a favor,” Kinston, NC, resident Jean Culbreth wrote on Facebook on Feb. 19, 2014. “The favor was to place 72 retired bomb-sniffing dogs in new homes. Well, it’s 10 days later and I am BEYOND thrilled to say that 92 dogs have been adopted! And with the 11 Ralph and I took for the Lenoir Co. SPCA, I had a part in 103 adoptions in 10 days. Man, I wish we could do this every week. To all involved: GREAT JOB.”
When reached for comment, Culbreth hung up.
‘Destroy the dogs’
The 13 dogs Dean Henderson and Jamie Solis took from K2 were, in fact, treated like outdated equipment. On the night of Feb. 10, 2014, the two men drove up to Currituck Kennels at Mt. Hope in Va., the dogs sliding around the back of their truck the whole way.
“Half of the dogs were on human Prozac and Xanax,” kennel master Greg Meredith tells The Post. “They were emaciated. They all had PTSD. One had an injury to his tail from shrapnel.”
The men told Meredith they were ex-Secret Service, had just bought the dogs for $30,000 each, and had a contract to sell them to the Panamanian government for twice that amount.
The paperwork given out at K2 that day included a document stating the adopter could not give a dog away, sell it, or profit from it. “If they lied to K2 and were planning to sell, they’d be in serious amounts of s- -t,” says the ex-K2 employee. “That’s illegal. And if K2 knew about that, that’s even more illegal.”
Seventeen months went by. Meredith had spent nearly $150,000 of his own money caring for the dogs and was broke. He pressed Henderson for help.
“Destroy the dogs” was the reply.
Former Marine Nick Beckham says he knows where his IDD dog, Lucky, is: Living with K2 CEO Lane Kjellsen in North Carolina. Beckham says he was tipped off by a K2 employee.
“K2 told me I had the right to adopt if I was the first handler and the dogs were retired,” Beckham says. “I called K2 and asked for paperwork. I filled it out and mailed it in and I never heard back. I e-mailed again — they never responded.”
Reached Wednesday, Kjellsen admitted many adoption events had taken place at K2. “Hundreds of dogs were adopted out,” he said. “Let me take that back. Not hundreds, but more than 100.”
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