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More than 300 cats and dogs arriving in Vancouver after being rescued in Afghanistan

The international effort included stops in Iceland and Turkey

After months of work, an international group has come together to move more than 300 dogs and cats from Afghanistan to Vancouver.

And they're arriving today, Feb. 1.

It started when the American army pulled out of the war-torn country at the end of August, 2021 when SPCA International and the Kabul Small Animal Rescue (KSAR) began rescuing animals due to the unrest and as people fled the country. 

"Both people and animals were increasingly affected by the fallout," says SPCA International in a press release. "Dogs and cats were left behind in shelters and abandoned as their owners as were forced to flee the country, and crucial evacuation attempts were threatened by serious safety issues, including the explosions outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, skyrocketing flight costs, plane restrictions, permit requirements, and other barriers."

Unfortunately, they weren't able to move them. The cats and staff taking care of them weren't allowed at the airport during the evacuation period. The dogs weren't allowed on military aircraft and a private charter couldn't be lined up either. At one point the dogs had to be released into the airport to live as strays for a period.

Efforts were further hampered as the USA's Centre for Disease Control doesn't allow dogs from Afghanistan to be imported.

Transportation and a destination were lined up a few weeks ago with Vancouver as the end goal for the 158 dogs and 146 cats. Before arriving in Vancouver the animals were taken to Turkey and then Iceland, and checked out by veterinarians.

“After doing everything in our power to make this evacuation a reality, we are thrilled to report that the animals will soon arrive in Vancouver, Canada, where we’re excited to finally welcome them to the shelter we’ve eagerly prepared for their arrival,” says SPCA International spokesperson Lori Kalef.

The group, which includes No Dog Left Behind and War Paws, along with local groups like RainCoast Dog Rescue Society and Thank Dog I Am Out Dog Rescue Society, isn't done, though. The hard part of moving the 314 animals to Canada, is done, but while a shelter has been set up and some dogs will return to their families (in a new country), many need care and new homes.

“We can’t wait to fill our incredible temporary shelter with canine and feline friends, and we’re thankful to each and every volunteer helping to operate this space for making our mission possible,” says Susan Patterson, founder of Thank Dog I am Out Rescue Society. “We are committed to creating new and wonderful lives for the animals left behind during the chaos of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.”

A registration website has been set up for those interested in adopting the cats and dogs. Donations can also be made to help cover the costs of care and shelter.