In this undated photo released by U.S. Army Capt. Gabriella Cook, a thin police dog stands between U.S Army Corporal Manny Torres, left, and an unidentified Iraqi security officer, right, in Baghdad, Iraq. Capt. Gabriella Cook of the U.S. Army Reserve's 313th Military Police Detachment, is asking for donations of dry dog food for the starving Iraqi police dogs.
AP Photo/Capt. Gabriella Cook vi
LAS VEGAS An impromptu relief effort mobilized in southern Nevada after an Army Reserve officer sent home a plea for food to feed starving Iraqi police dogs at a training center in Baghdad.
Army Reserve Capt. Gabriella Cook begged her friends to come to the aid of 12 undernourished German shepherds and one black Labrador retriever trained for bomb-detection and attack at the Iraqi Police Academy. She said the Iraqi animals have been eating table scraps and garbage.
''The dogs are starving and urgently need dry dog food,'' Cook wrote in an e-mail to friends in Las Vegas. ''Some of them have already died. Half of them are sick. We have no way of buying any actual dog food here.''
The Las Vegas Valley Humane Society was swamped with offers of cash and bags of dry dog food for the 13 dogs after a Nevada newspaper reported Cook's plea. Cook said the animals were the Iraqi Interior Ministry's only bomb-sniffing police dogs.
Judith Ruiz, president of the nonprofit humane society, accepted a $5,000 check from a Las Vegas sports gambling handicapper and said she was trying to arrange transportation for the food.
Cook was elated, said Diana Paivanas, a friend in Las Vegas who said offers of help came from people in states including New Hampshire, Florida, Texas, Ohio and New York. Paivanas said pallets of dry dog food had been contributed, and the humane society was looking for storage space while awaiting shipment to Iraq.
''I've heard from her twice this morning,'' Paivanas said. ''She's so excited.''
A Henderson, Nev., veterinarian said his telephone started ringing with offers of help after he was quoted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal report about Cook's request to ''please send all the dog food you can.''
''If one dog smells one bomb and saves a platoon's life, it's worth it,'' Terry Muratore told The Associated Press. Muratore treats several pet cats and dogs that Cook has at home in Las Vegas.
Cook, a Las Vegas police officer, is commander of the Las Vegas-based 313th Military Police Detachment.
The unit arrived in Baghdad on Dec. 13 to train Iraqi police, including Iraqi officers with dogs trained to detect explosives.
''That is so wonderful,'' she said in an e-mail thanking Paivanas for the quick response. ''It's neat that it comes all together now.''
''PS,'' she wrote, ''the Iraqi bomb dogs helped us Americans to sniff out a building.''
In Washington, an aide to Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said the senator was asking the Army about the health of the U.S. military's working dogs in Iraq. Ensign also is a veterinarian.
''The concern is that these animals play a vital role in the security operations out there by sniffing for weapons that could take lives,'' Ensign aide Jack Finn said. ''They have to be taken care of, and if they are not we have to find out why.''
In Baghdad, military officials at the Combined Press Information Center said they were checking Cook's report.
But military spokesperson Staff Sgt. Don Dees said the care and feeding of Iraqi police dogs was separate from U.S. military working dogs.
''Each dog handler deploys with their dog and 180 days of rations,'' Dees said of U.S. canine teams. ''The MPs tell me sometimes the dogs eat better than the handlers.''
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