"Throughout the entire deployment, she would be one thing I'd love to see," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. A.J. Kirrish, who is trying to bring Harley home

By Benjamin VanHoose
September 03, 2020 02:15 PM
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Kathleen Rice/Twitter

Supporters are rallying behind a rescue dog from overseas that is currently being held at an airport due to what officials say is "a minor paperwork mistake."

According to Paws of War, a nonprofit organization that places shelter dogs with U.S. military veterans, a pup from Jordan named Harley has been detained at the JFK International Airport in New York City since Aug. 24, waiting to be deported due to a clerical error in processing the animal.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. A.J. Kirrish, who lives in California, where he is currently helping fight the state's wildfires, is a veteran who adopted Harley after meeting the abandoned pup during a combat tour in the Middle East.

"For several months’ [Paws of War] worked to get Harley to America," said the rescue. "Harley was transferred to Jordan and received veterinary care, all required shots, and vaccines, and was held in quarantine for several months, as the airport in Jordan was closed due to COVID-19."

The rescue said, however, that upon arriving in the United States, Harley was denied entry by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to "some minor clerical errors from what we are being told."

Courtesy Paws of War

Paws of War warned that if the dog is sent back to the Middle East, Harley's "treatment could be bad especially if it is known she was rescued by an American soldier."

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In response to the plight of Harley, several New York politicians assembled to call on the CDC to walk-back the decision to deny the dog entry. Rep. Kathleen Rice said in a press release that the hold up was caused by "a minor paperwork mistake."

On Tuesday, Rice — along with Reps. Peter King, Gregory Meeks, Lee Zeldin, and Tom Suozzi — wrote an open letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield on the matter.

"The veteran who adopted Harley met her during a combat tour in the Middle East. Harley was the joy of the military base and quickly formed a strong bond with this young soldier," reads the letter. "Now, the soldier and his wife wait anxiously as they try to secure Harley’s return home. If Harley is sent back to Jordan, she will almost certainly be euthanized."

"Paws of War is happy to provide any clarifying documentation that the CDC deems necessary. Additionally, they are willing to organize for a veterinarian to administer an additional rabies vaccine in airport quarantine, just to be safe," the letter continues. "As Harley was designated to be a companion to an American veteran and given her likely death without your intervention, we ask that you strongly consider making an exception for Harley so that she may continue on to her new home."

Kirrish, 30, told WABC that Harley was the silver lining during his deployment. "Throughout the entire deployment, she would be one thing I'd love to see," he said. "If we were out on a mission, I'd come back and before I could even take my body armor off, she was all over me crying, trying to hug me. Just wanted love from me, and it was an amazing feeling."

The veteran added that he's worried about his beloved companion's fate if she is deported.

"They are saying that she possibly may have rabies, and that her paperwork isn't lining up," he told the outlet. "If the CDC here in the United States doesn't want to deal with her, I can only imagine her fate when she arrives in a country overseas, with the tag of 'possible rabies.'"