11/14/2005 - KIRKUK AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- Against the backdrop of a rising sun, a small group of Airmen make their way stealthily around the in search of the enemy.
Team of pest management technicians -- from the 506th Expeditionary Civil Engineers Squadron -- traps and deterrence are a daily task as they try to reduce the amount of stray animals roaming freely here.
The stray animal population does present a deadly threat to humans because they may have rabies, said Tech. Sgt. Stacy Wallett, a pest management technician deployed here from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.
Within the last month a dog captured on the base tested positive for the rabies virus, said Army Capt. (Dr.) Kristie Souders, officer in charge of the 72nd Medical Detachment veterinary clinic. She’s deployed here from Giebelstadt, Germany.
“The big thing people should keep in mind is that (Kirkuk residents) don’t keep dogs as pets,” she said.
One Arab cultural specialist agrees.
Capt. Matthew Ence, a foreign affairs officer for 9th Air Force at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., said in many Arab countries dogs and cats are seen as little more than pests. He said it would be rare for a middle income Arab family to keep one as a pet inside their home.
The CDC reports that worldwide, exposure to rabid dogs is still the cause of more than 90 percent of human exposure to rabies and causes more than 99 percent of the human deaths annually.
In the case of the rabid dog caught here, Dr. Souders said, it “acted like it wanted to be played with, then it turned on them.”
“Once it affects their brain, it will change,” she said. “You can’t predict how they are going to act.” .
“If you get bit, and you don’t report it, and you get rabies, you will die,” said Maj. (Dr.) John Harrah, director of emergency services for the 506th Expeditionary Medical Squadron. He’s deployed from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Here, General Order 1A, which applies to all assigned military, specifically prohibits “adopting as pets or mascots, caring for or feeding any type of domestic or wild animal.”
And yet, the risky and illegal behavior continues.
“We found a place where someone appeared to have set up a feeding station for the local canine population,” said Tech. Sgt. Bruce Gazaway, a pest management technician deployed from Kulis Air National Guard Base, Alaska.
The sergeant said the “well-intentioned Good Samaritan” actually endangered everyone around them by attracting stray dogs to the area.
“They just aren’t thinking,” he said.