• 158 dogs and 146 cats rescued in Afghanistan were evacuated
  • The animals were left behind by owners during August's mass evacuation
  • Rescued pets will be reunited with owners or put up for adoption across North America

After a five-month-long rescue effort, over 300 rescue animals were safely airlifted out of Afghanistan.

In a joint operation between Kabul Small Animal Rescue and global animal rescue agency SPCA International, 158 rescue dogs and 146 cats from Afghanistan were airlifted in a military plane to Canada on Tuesday.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said they have been working behind the scenes since August 2021 after the US military withdrew from Afghanistan. The animals included the ones left behind by evacuating owners and those rescued from the streets, Global News reported.

Lori Kalef, director of programs for SPCA International said she was contacted by Kabul Small Animal Rescue last summer and asked to help evacuate the animals. At the time, evacuating people out of the country was the main priority, leaving the rescued animals stranded.

The owner of Kabul Small Animal Rescue, Charlotte Maxwell Jones, an American citizen arrived at the airport during the mass evacuation in August 2021 with crates of animals. But, she failed to secure a place on the flights for the animals. After the last flight left on Aug. 31, she was asked to release the animals onto the tarmac as they had nowhere else to go. But, Maxwell-Jones stayed behind and rescue more animals while she planned an evacuation with SPCA, The National reported.

"When the evacuation failed back in August, our hearts broke. The last few months have been a roller coaster ride — one filled with sweat, tears, and very little sleep. Today made it all worth it," the SPCA wrote on Facebook after the evacuation.

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

According to Kalef, around 35 percent of the pets set to arrive in Vancouver will be reunited with their Afghan owners. The rest of the animals will be withheld until their owners arrive or they will be put up for adoption across North America.

"The fact is that if they stayed behind in Afghanistan, they wouldn’t live. They were going through a famine, they’re going through a famine in Afghanistan, the staff want to vacate from Kabul Small animal rescue as well," Kalef said to the Global News. "So now we’re at a place where we had no other choice, but to bring them to a place that they could be safe."

The flight carrying the animals left Afghanistan on Monday morning for Turkey. It reached Iceland on Tuesday before embarking on its final journey, to Canada.

The animals were accompanied by Derick Stone from Kabul Small Animal Rescue and Jeff Berri from No Dogs Left Behind.

representational image pixabay