Hundreds of Cats and Dogs Abandoned in Afghanistan After U.S. Withdrawal Rescued

Hundreds of dogs and cats that were abandoned in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan have been flown back to North America following a large-scale rescue mission.

Nearly 300 dogs and cats were loaded onto the plane which departed Kabul on Sunday, and arrived in Vancouver, Canada on the evening of February 1.

U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan in August, 2021, after 20 years in the country. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated when the Taliban took over on August 15, leaving many dogs and cats stranded amid the chaos.

During the takeover, global animal rescue organization SPCA International were approached by Afghanistan-based rescue, Kabul Small Animal Rescue (KSAR) for help in getting the abandoned pets out of the country.

At the time Kabul Small Animal Rescue had taken in around 130 cats and dogs. Some of them were pets abandoned after their owners were evacuated while others were found on the street.

SPCA International worked with the rescue shelter to get the pets out but were not able to get the pets on a plane. The dogs and cats were then released in the airport with nowhere to go.

The SPCA said that all rescue partners were "devastated" at the unsuccessful rescue attempt, but refused to give up.

The rescue finally took place on February 1 after five months of preparation and collaboration with other rescue partners. The mission was branded 'Mission Possible' by the organizations involved.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, Lori Kalef, Director of Programs at SPCA International, said: "After doing everything in our power to make this evacuation a reality, we are thrilled to report that the animals have arrived safely in Vancouver, Canada, and are enjoying some well-deserved rest after their long journey.

"We are so grateful to our many partners for their tireless work on this rescue mission and are excited to report that the animals in our care are happy, healthy, and ready to find their forever homes or be reunited with their families."

No Dogs Left Behind, another partner involved in the rescue operation, said that the months leading up to this successful rescue mission has been a "challenging yet incredible journey."

SPCA International said that watching the plane depart Kabul was "an extremely emotional moment" for everyone involved.

In a Facebook post, which can be found here, Kabul Small Animal Rescue said it was "relieved" that the animals were finally making it out.

The plane, loaded with the cats and dogs, stopped in Turkey and Iceland along the way to give veterinary teams a chance to check in on the animals and make sure they were doing well.

No Dogs Left Behind, went live on Facebook as the animals arrived in Canada. The footage shows volunteers handling hundreds of crates and bringing them inside to the airport terminal.

FACEBOOK LIVE rebroadcast with NDLB Founder Jeffrey Beri...February 1, 2022... The NDLB Vancouver team secured the Kabul, Afghanistan survivors at our...

No Dogs Left Behind went live on Facebook as the animals arrived

Lori Kalef, director of programs for SPCA International, told Global News it works with numerous organizations around the world to embark on rescue missions such as these.

For this particular operation, it also worked with War Paws, Marley's Mutts, Thank DOG I Am Out Rescue Society and more.

The dogs and cats rescued will now be reunited with their owners or put up for adoption.

Update 02/04/22, 3:32 a.m ET: This article was updated to include quotes from Lori Kalef

Kabul Small Animal Clinic Head Veterinarian Tahera Rezai, plays with dogs in the courtyard of the clinic in February, 2020. WAKIL KOHSAR / Contributor/Getty Images

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