Widespread outcry has gripped the gulf state of Kuwait over the past week after a strange scandal broke: shortly after losing an important contract, a private security firm euthanised 24 of its bomb-detection dogs and buried them quickly, in a shallow, roadside grave. Since then, the company boss has been nowhere to be found and further scandals have also emerged including company employees not being paid for months. So what is going on? The Observers investigated this twisted tale.
The scandal started in mid-June when Kuwait National Petroleum Company broke off a contract with Eastern Securities of Kuwait. A few days later, on June 21, this American private security firm had 24 of its bomb detection dogs euthanised. Previously, these dogs were used to search for explosives on oil fields. Angered by this, an employee of the company posted photos of the dead animals on Facebook.
A spokesperson for the Kuwait National Petroleum Company said that the company had played no role in the decision to terminate the lives of the dogs. He said that Kuwait National Petroleum Company broke its contract with Eastern Securities because “tests carried out by a third party to evaluate the capacity of the dogs to detect bombs were not conclusive.” He also said he regretted that Eastern Security had decided to kill the animals.
FRANCE 24 spoke with Maha al-Khatib, an activist who works with the Kuwaiti NGO for animal rights Karuq8. She thinks that Eastern Securities had the dogs killed because they had become a burden for the company after the Kuwaiti petrol company ended its contract: “Eastern securities had to pay for these dogs’ upkeep, even though they weren’t making any profit from them. So they decided that killing them was the best solution.”
Mimi Maamoun, a journalist and animal rights activist, alerted authorities to this incident. She is also the person who first brought this case to the media’s attention.
When I saw these photos, I reached out both to animal rights groups and the authorities. I also started looking into the incident myself and I learned that the dogs had been buried near a road in a shallow pit.
On June 22, I filed a complaint with the police, accusing Eastern Securities of animal cruelty leading to the death of these animals.
A new law adopted in December 2015 means that a person convicted of animal cruelty can be sentenced to up to a year in prison. I also reported this crime to a police unit specialised in environmental protection because the way that the company disposed on the dog’s bodies broke several laws governing treatment of the environment. Disposing of the dogs’ bodies should have been done in coordination with Kuwait City authorities but the company did not contact them at any time over this matter.
In the past few days, I have accompanied police on several occasions to offices of the Eastern Securities.
The owner of the company, Bill Baisey, has been unreachable since this scandal broke. One of the managers in the company told police that the dogs were all old and had incurable illnesses. He said that’s why they had to be put down.
But honestly, I don’t believe that. And even if the dogs were old and sick, the company did not follow normal protocol. When animals have incurable diseases, what usually happens is that they are assessed by a vet. If he thinks the animal in question should be euthanized, then he writes it up in a report. But the company didn’t follow this kind of procedure at all.
“Thirty Filipino employees who were taking care of the dogs are on strike because they haven’t been paid for months”
I also went with a state-appointed vet to carry out tests on the dead dogs to find out if they were really sick as the Eastern Securities manager claimed. But the veterinarian felt dizzy when he saw the decomposing animals and we had to leave before we could take samples.
Eastern Securities didn’t kill all of their dogs. They still have about 90 dogs in their care. After the widespread outcry in the media, I don’t think they’d dare kill any more.
This scandal also brought to light another matter that Kuwaiti police are now investigating. We found out that about 30 employees of Filipino origin who were taking care of the dogs are on strike because they haven’t been paid for several months. The head of the company also confiscated their passports, which is common practice elsewhere in the Middle East, but is banned in Kuwait. “
Eastern Securities of Kuwait did not respond to FRANCE 24’s requests for an interview. The Kuwaiti police unit specialised in environmental protection did not respond to our requests either. If they do respond, we will add that to the article.