U.S. Air Force veteran reunited with dog he saved from Middle East despite mix-up that nearly deported her

NEW YORK -- A veteran will be reunited with the puppy he rescued from the Middle East after a paperwork mix-up almost resulted in her deportation.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. A.J. Kirrish feared for the dog's life when the confusion could have sent her back to Jordan--where officials say she likely would have been euthanized.

The dog, Harley, landed at JFK Airport on Aug. 24 and is considered an emotional support animal to help Kirrish deal with effects from war. The 1-year-old dog's entry was denied by authorities at JFK who cited invalid vaccination paperwork when she arrived.

Officials say the invalid paperwork was only the result of a minor mistake which has since been corrected in an appeal by Paws of War, a Long Island-based organization that matches rescue dogs with veterans.

U.S. Representatives Kathleen Rice (NY-04), Peter King (NY-02), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Lee Zeldin (NY-01), and Tom Suozzi (NY-03) all got involved and sent a letter to the CDC calling for urgent intervention to save Harley's life.

"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. 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," the representatives wrote in the letter.

Officials with Paws of War even told the CDC it would re-vaccinate her and even quarantine her if needed.

"We will do anything that they want us to do," said Paws of War co-founder Robert Misseri. "We're here fighting for a soldier who spent 10 years fighting for our country. This soldier saved this girl Harley in a, in a war-torn area, and he doesn't deserve it. His wife doesn't deserve it and Harley surely doesn't deserve to have to go back to the Middle East."

Rice announced Thursday that Kirrish and Harley would be reunited after she gets a new rabies vaccination and is quarantined for 28 days.

"Words cannot describe the appreciation that my wife and I have for all the hard work and support from every single person involved," Kirrish said. "We are eternally humbled and grateful. We are counting down the days to be reunited with our little girl, Harley."

Kirrish first met Harley at the start of 2020 during a deployment to the Middle East.

"Throughout the entire deployment, she would be one thing I'd love to see, come home every day to," he said. "If we were out on 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."

Harley is the second dog stuck at JFK. Berrie was on the same flight and was also dealing with invalid paperwork.

Congressman Suozzi is helping transfer Berrie to a veterinarian, which will be after September 25. Once she's released from the veterinarian, she must be handed back to Paws Unite People for a minimum of six months. Then she'll be up for adoption, which there's a wait list for.

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