Recently, hundreds of rescuers organized a massive effort to save 286 dogs and cats stranded in Kabul, Afghanistan. After the NATO withdrawal in August, evacuees had to leave behind their beloved pets. For months, the animals were stranded in an airport after an evacuation flight fell through as the Taliban advanced.
In the chaos, dogs were released to fend for themselves in the airport and had to be found again. According to Newsweek, SPCA International and many rescue partners were “devastated,” but they refused to give up.
Meanwhile, cats in cages were exposed to tear gas at the airport, says the Kabul Small Animal Rescue (KSAR), victims of collateral damage. Sadly, according to the Vancouver Sun, six cats perished as a result.
Charlotte Maxwell-Jones from Tennessee founded KSAR to help get animals and staff out of Afghanistan. At one point, the Taliban escorted her off airport grounds, reported WBIR Channel 10. (see video below)
Video by WBIR Channel 10:
Rescue Groups Lead International Effort
Fortunately, thanks to an international outcry and ongoing efforts by KSAR, the SPCA International, and many others, the animals finally arrived in Vancouver, Canada. First, they had to fly to Turkey and Iceland, so veterinary teams could check on them along the long way.
‘Mission Possible’ Saves Pets from Afghanistan
On February 1, the SPCA and KSAR were happy to report that ‘Mission Possible’ was successful. On Facebook, KSAR shared the video of the animals touching down in Vancouver, the result of months of work and effort. According to the Mission City Record, a modified Russian Ilyushin 76-TD transport aircraft could carry all the pets together.
“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.
Once on the ground, a coalition of animal welfare groups was ready with a temporary facility to house the animals.
Below, a video by SPCA International shows the cats safe and sound.
“Our #MissionPossible cats have made themselves at home and are enjoying some quality cuddle time. Have you ever seen anything more adorable?”
Amazingly, over 200 volunteers helped SCPA staff care for all the cats and dogs. Meanwhile, some are beginning to have happy reunions with their humans while others will find new forever homes.
Cats Rescued from Afghanistan
One of the lucky cats to make it to Vancouver included Tay Tay, a three-year-old grey tabby.
NATO garrison safety officer Gary Ash, 59, bonded with the cat while stationed next to the American Embassy at the Resolute Support Mission (RSM).
At the RSM headquarters, there were 10 working cats called the “Fightin Felines of the RSHQ,” reports the Vancouver Sun. These cats had official duties like catching mice with clipped left ears to mark them as working cats.
When Ash arrived in 2020, he met Tay Tay, a petite, pretty, and strong cat, as he described her. Although he wasn’t supposed to touch or pet the working cats, he couldn’t resist offering them treats.
“I am a cat person,” said Ash. “I had cat snacks and I’d give them a treat. My peers would say, ‘Stop it, they are supposed to be chasing mice.'”
Soon, Tay Tay started following Ash around, and he said, “A bond formed.” Given a chance, Tay Tay would sneak inside and look for him.
When Ash left in June 2021, he couldn’t take her with him. Then, he learned that embassy staff left her with KSAR. After he says the flight “fell apart before our eyes.,” he was relieved when Tay Tay boarded the recent flight to Vancouver.
When the plane landed, Ash was there, hoping to cuddle Tay Tay, but then, he saw her:
“I saw Tay Tay in her giant crate and she was petrified,” said Ash.
Once at the hotel, Tay Tay calmed down, but then it was time for another flight home to Vacaville, California. Traumatized by her previous flight, she managed to get loose at the airport.
“It took 45 minutes and five security guys to round her up,” said Ash.
After all the drama, the tabby is home and enjoying the amenities like “a familiar Afghan rug.”
“We’ve been apart for six months and she’s been through hell,” said Ash. “It’s an extraordinary feeling to have her home.”
Barfi Comes Home
On February 6, SCPA International shared another wonderful story about a cat named: Barfi.
“What an incredible last few days it has been! Yesterday, we witnessed another unforgettable moment. After a year apart, Ali reunited with his cat, Barfi. It was an emotional reunion filled with happy tears and LOTS of snuggles. Being able to reunite the #MissionPossible cats and dogs with those who loved them most has been incredibly rewarding. We can’t wait to share more reunion stories with all of you.”
Air and Bela Come Home
On the KSAR page, they shared images of Air and Bela, two cats “reunited with their owner in Vancouver!”
In a related post, the SPCA elaborated on the family:
“There was not one dry eye in sight during yesterday’s reunion. We are honored to have reunited this Afghan refugee family with two of their cats. Back in Kabul, this family of animal lovers was dedicated to rescuing strays. It broke their hearts to have to leave them behind. Now, they will once again get to be together. This is one heartwarming reunion we will never forget.”
What a wonderful reunion made possible thanks to so many wonderful rescuers and people who care!
Along with the kitties, we love seeing the adorable dogs from Afghanistan who are part of “Mission Possible Pups.” To see more, check out the Kabul Small Animal Rescue Facebook social media and the SPCA International page.