Warning: This article contains a graphic photo which some people will find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.
A horrifying June 17 Facebook photo of 24 dead dogs at a U.S. security company in Kuwait is stirring Internet outrage. The dogs were civilian working dogs (CWDs), trained to detect explosives at oil refineries.
In an interview with the New York Post, whistleblowers, dog vendors and former employees of Eastern Securities tell of longstanding canine abuse of animals in the security company’s care. Eastern Securities is also accused of recruiting impoverished Third-World workers who are then held against their will, without work visas, passports or cell phones.
Roger Abshire of the dog-training academy USK9 Unlimited, cut ties with Eastern Securities in 2008. “They are a terrible, terrible company,” he said. “I inspected and had people on top of this, and [Eastern Securities CEO Bill] Baisey didn’t like it. Handlers weren’t getting paid on time. They weren’t getting dog food on time.”
This allegation is confirmed by Amy Swope, an American who worked for Eastern Securities in Kuwait from July to November of 2014. “Those dogs were mistreated,” she said. “A lot of them were underfed, had eye and skin infections, lesions, bacterial infections, diarrhea and cancerous growths. One dog had uterine cancer so bad I begged them to euthanize her.”
Swope said the company refused to put the ill dog down and instead made her work until she died. She reported veterinarians would never stay on staff for long because the company rarely paid anyone.
“I had two emergency cases that I took to a local vet,” Swope said. “They said, ‘We won’t treat these dogs; your company doesn’t pay.’ I ended up using petty cash.”
At the time, the New York Post notes, Eastern Securities was being paid $3,000 per dog, per month, by the Kuwaiti government. Other sources say that figure is much higher – up to $10,000 per dog, per month.
Swope believes Eastern Securities CEO Bill Baisey, also known as Fathalla Balbeisi, was involved in human trafficking. She confronted Baisey when she learned many of the low-level workers from India, Nepal, the Philippines and Uganda had their passports taken away and were stuck in Kuwait. “Some of these workers don’t have embassies,” she noted.
She said Baisey then threatened her with prison. “He said, ‘We have photos of men coming in and out of your apartment. That’s illegal in Kuwait. You’ll be thrown in jail. Leave it alone.'”
Swope says she herself was never issued a work visa, she was also vulnerable in Kuwait. She booked the first flight out of Kuwait to Saudi Arabia, which she says was a mark of how desperate she was to get out of there.
When Swope saw the photo of the dead dogs, she had no doubts they were killed as a cost-cutting measure. “They lost their contract on May 31 – the ministry’s not paying them anymore, and the dogs are costing them money,” she said. “This has been going on for awhile.”
In a Facebook post, Swope wrote:
I worked for this company for about 5 months in 2014 as an assistant program manager. Eastern Securities, a Kuwaiti contract company with an American owner, has killed the dogs left in their kennel upon losing the contract they had with the Kuwait National Petroleum Company. I cannot get exact numbers, but the only witness that has exposed this says about 40 dogs. The owner of the company is Bill Baisey and his Program Manager is Tony Touchet. Both were aware of the murders of the dogs. The K9s were contract working dogs trained by a US company to do explosive detection at the oil drilling sites in Kuwait. The witness of this massacre is scared to come forward due to fear of being arrested in Kuwait. … The story about the deaths of these CWD’s is true. This is the dirty, grungy side of animals for business. Even the “good” companies eventually have to sell their dogs to someone when their contracts are over, and then low-bidding companies like ES end up with the final say in their fate.
When the Post spoke with Baisey, he denied all charges and all knowledge of any wrong doing.
“I do not run this operation. You’re talking to the CEO of the group,” he told the Post. “I had nothing to do with this. I’m not involved in any way, shape or form. I’m getting s—t from everybody.”
Eastern Securities’ phones have been disconnected and email shut down since the photo of the dead dogs went viral last week. When the Post reached Baisey’s project manager Tony Touchet by phone on Friday afternoon, he hung up.
Baisey insists he has nothing to hide, and that his company has not gone dark. “Um . . . sorry, no. That’s not possible. The company numbers work,” he said, then immediately added, “You may be right. The company numbers may have a problem.”
As for the email: “Maybe it’s jammed,” Baisey said. “I’ve been getting slammed by everyone. It’s very unfortunate.”
Eastern Securities hired Branko Przar as a veterinarian in July 2013, even though Przar told the company he had no medical training and no more than a high school education. Przar had served as K9 handler in the Bosnian Army.
Nonetheless he was placed in charge of 151 dogs. “I couldn’t do surgeries,” he says. “I’m not a university-degree vet. I just went to high school.”
“Dogs were dying there because of bad, bad care,” he tells the Post. “One dog literally died – I was asking for the company to take the dog to be hospitalized in Kuwait. They didn’t want to pay for the trip and seven, eight hours later the dog was found dead in the kennel.”
Przar says the dogs were given medicine meant for sheep and pigs. “They wouldn’t even buy antibiotics for the dogs,” he says. “I cannot save dogs with no medicine.”
Przar says Touchet knew about the canine abuse. After a meeting with the project manager, Przar resigned and went home. “That company is full of a–holes who do terrible things,” he says. Handlers, he says, were “absolutely, absolutely, absolutely kicking the dogs. … Those people are such great liars, you cannot trust them – how far they will go for money.”
The Post notes Victor Okuna came to Kuwait from his native Uganda in July of 2013 and also worked with the canines. “Dogs with cancer were made to work,” he says. “I warned Tony Touchet about the condition of a dog twice in the seven days before she died. He said no.”
Okuna often saw other abuses. “A lot of kicking, especially by those involved in the training of the dogs,” he says. “I would see some handlers taking the dog in the corner and kicking hard.”
He says many dogs were kept in small cages that they couldn’t stand up in, and once a dog’s assigned handler left for vacation, or quit, the dog had no one.
“Once the handler goes, no grooming, no exercise,” Okuna says. “The dog s—ts, they clean it up, they give it food. That’s it.”
Baisey claims the canine slaughter is part of a U.S. conspiracy meant to bring down his company. “We believe that certain people in the States are involved,” he says. “Someone in Louisiana. He’s been trying so hard to steal the contract. What you’re hearing, it’s people looking to ruin the company name.”
However Baisey does admit abuse of the animals did take place. He says upon learning of the animals’ deaths, “I immediately formed a committee to find out what’s going on. He says he’s still not sure how the dogs were killed, possibly by injection. “I really don’t know that detail,” he says. Baisey adds that the person who killed the dogs “does not work for Eastern Standard. He works for an agency that we lease the kennels from.”
Attitudes toward dogs in the Middle East are often wildly at variance with that in Western nations, where dogs are usually cherished companions. Recently Iran started a crackdown on the “vulgar” habit of keeping dogs. Officials are confiscating dogs from homes on the excuse of taking them to be vaccinated – and then the dogs disappear.
Iran’s Shahrvand newspaper reports the crackdown is launched by local prosecutor Mohsen Boosaidi.
“Keeping and caring for dogs is haram (forbidden) according to religious leaders,” Boosaidi told the Fars news agency on June 19. “If we find out that anyone is keeping and caring for dogs and so is promoting vulgar Western culture, we will deal with them firmly.”
The abrupt confiscation of pets has left families mourning their animals. “Ever since our dog was taken away, you only hear the sound of crying and sobbing in our house,” said one owner.
Javid Al-e Davood, the head of Iran’s Society For Protection of Animals, said such confiscations were illegal and that the prosecutor was “absolutely wrong” about the Islamic attitude to dogs.
“Keeping dogs has not been regarded as haram in any religious book. Associating keeping dogs with Western culture is distorting the history of Islamic and Iranian civilization,” he said.
Samaa noted, “Dogs are considered najes (unclean) in Islam and police often stop and fine dog walkers. However, Iran’s authorities have stated that dogs with a clear role – such as guarding property or guiding the blind – are permitted.”