Victory for Ratchet

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Status: Current
Originally Posted: October 20, 2008

Victory for Ratchet

An Iraqi puppy adopted by American soldier on charter flight en route to US.

Ratchet the Iraqi puppy finally had his day. An animal rescue group flew into Baghdad on Sunday and picked up the dog, which was adopted by Army Spc. Gwen Beberg, 28, of Minneapolis in a case that highlighted military rules barring troops from caring for pets while in Iraq.

Ratchet was loaded onto a charter flight, which took off Sunday night for
Kuwait. He's due in Minnesota later this week. It was the third try by
Operation Baghdad Pups to get Ratchet out of the country on behalf of
Beberg, who says she couldn't have made it through her 13-month deployment
without the affectionate mutt.

She and another soldier rescued the puppy from a burning pile of trash in
May. Beberg's quest to get the dog has gained international attention. More
than 65,000 people from Illinois to Italy have signed an online petition
urging the Army to let the puppy go to the United States.

The U.S. military said the dog was free to leave but American troops could
not be responsible for its transportation. "We're happy the SPCA has made
arrangements for his safe travel to the U.S., we hope he has a long, happy,
fruitful life there," military spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Swiergosz said.

Beberg initially tried to send him with a military convoy from her base
south of Baghdad to the airport for an Oct. 1 pickup. But the playful black
dog with a touch of white on his nose, chest and paws was reportedly
confiscated by an Army officer and sent back.

Baghdad Pups, a U.S. rescue program run by the Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals International, tried again on Wednesday but was unable to
get Ratchet to the flight, which took off with six other dogs instead. On
Sunday, a private security firm collected Ratchet from the small base, put
him into a pet carrier and transported him to the airport on Baghdad's
western outskirts.

Baghdad Pups coordinator Terri Crisp then took custody and boarded him on
the charter. The effort will cost an estimated $5,000, according to the
SPCA.

Beberg has been transferred to another military base to prepare for her
departure from Iraq next month. Her mother said bonding with the 6-month-old
puppy was a life-saver for her daughter. "He has been her emotional support,
confidante, sanity-saver and a connection with something other than a war
zone," Patricia Beberg said Sunday in a telephone interview.

She also urged the U.S. military to reconsider its policy that bars troops
from caring for pets while on duty or taking them home. "The animals are
doing so much good for our soldiers, not only when they're there but when
they come home," she said. "The military says it's very concerned about
their mental health ... this is one way to help and it certainly doesn't
cost as much as years and years of therapy."

Baghdad Pups has brought 56 dogs and six cats to the U.S. to be with their
owners since February. The group says it is both rescuing animals who face
abuse in Iraq, as well as helping soldiers who benefit from the bond
developed with the animals.

The U.S. military cited several reasons for its pets policy, including health issues and difficulties in caring for the animals.

In June, a dog brought to the U.S. by Operation Baghdad Pups tested positive
for rabies after it was euthanized for other health problems. SPCA
International spokeswoman Stephanie Scroggs said one cat had to be put down.


See our original action alert, Clemency for Ratchet.

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