After six months of tireless efforts, a planeload of abandoned animals from Afghanistan arrived at Vancouver International Airport on Tuesday (Feb. 1).
The flight was organized by Kabul Small Animal Rescue and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) International. The animals were transported on a modified Russian Ilyushin 76-TD transport aircraft designed to accommodate 286 animals.
“We thank everyone for the constant support these past months. Still in a daze here at the enormity of what we managed to accomplish and the enormous help we got in doing so,” Kabul Small Animal Rescue said in a Facebook post.
Amid the evacuation of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, Kabul Small Animal Rescue sent out an urgent plea for help evacuating the hundreds of cats and dogs in their care. Several organizations answered the call and planned to get the animals out of the country prior to the withdrawal. But as the Taliban rapidly advanced the situation descended into chaos.
In August, the dogs had reached the Kabul airport but were released to fend for themselves — Kabul Small Animal Rescue said they are working with Taliban and Qatari officials to locate the dogs. Meanwhile, the cats were turned away and sent back to Kabul Small Animal Rescue. That forced the organizations to come up with a new plan.
Over the winter, a coalition of animal welfare groups including War Paws, Marley’s Mutts, RainCoast Dog Rescue Society and Thank DOG I Am Out was formed to set up a temporary facility in Vancouver to receive the almost 300 animals from Kabul.
“This dedicated group worked non-stop, following strict guidelines, fully documenting every animal for import and setting up a facility that meets every regulation in record time,” SPCA International said in a news release.
SPCA staff and over 200 volunteers worked to ensure the facility would be ready. Meanwhile, countless adopters and organizations worked to find forever homes for the animals. Several adopters were waiting for their new furry family members at the airport when the animals arrived in Canada.
“We cannot stress enough how challenging this process has been,” the SPCA said. “How thankful we are to have incredible companies like Signature Flight Support, Modu-Loc, and King of Floors in our corner – it would have been impossible to do this without your support. But most importantly, it is animal lovers like YOU, making donations big and small, that have made this a reality. THANK YOU!”