British Columbia

Planeload of abandoned dogs and cats from Afghanistan arrives in Vancouver

Hundreds of animals stranded in Afghanistan have arrived in Vancouver on Tuesday night, after more than six months of rescue efforts by SPCA International.

Some of the animals will be reunited with their owners while others will be put up for adoption

Hundreds of dogs were flown to Vancouver International Airport on Tuesday as part of a six-month-long mission by the SPCA and other charities. (Alexandre Lamic/CBC)

Hundreds of animals stranded in Afghanistan arrived in Vancouver on Tuesday night, after more than six months of rescue efforts by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

A total of 158 dogs and 146 cats touched down at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) aboard a specially converted Russian Ilyushin 76-TD aircraft after stops in Turkey and Iceland.

SPCA International said partners in Kabul reached out to them regarding the pets when U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan.

The groups hoped to evacuate the animals to North America at the time of the withdrawal, but the volatile situation combined with logistical issues resulted in the delay.

A total of 158 dogs and 146 cats were rescued. Preparations for the rescue effort started as soon as U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan. (Alexandre Lamic/CBC)

"These animals have been on the plane for quite some time," Lori Kalef, director of programs for SPCA International, said prior their arrival. "We had to reroute at the last minute due to the conflict going on in Russia."

From YVR, the animals will be transferred to a specially constructed 1,600-square metre facility.

Kalef said about 66 of the animals will be reunited with their owners, while another two dozen will stay with the SPCA until their owners are able to retrieve them. 

A Russian Ilyushin 76-TD transport aircraft had to be specially converted as part of the mission. (Alexandre Lamic/CBC)

The others will be put up for adoption across North America. 

Anyone interested in adopting one of the animals can visit the SPCA International website. Applications will be handled by SPCA International and the B.C.-based RainCoast Dog Rescue Society.

Hundreds of volunteers across continents were involved in the effort to find new homes for the animals stranded in Afghanistan. (Alexandre Lamic/CBC)

Treacherous rescue mission

In a statement, the SPCA said numerous pets were left behind in shelters when their owners fled the country following the Taliban takeover.

A local charity, Kabul Small Animal Rescue, had saved more than 70 dogs from Kabul International Airport and rescued dozens of other animals abandoned by owners when they were forced to flee.

Some of the obstacles that stood in the way of the international rescue effort included plane restrictions, explosions at the Kabul airport, and permit delays.

U.S. disease control regulations, specifically around animals at high risk of rabies, also meant that some of the dogs being rescued could not directly be flown into the country.

A plane-load of abandoned dogs and cats from Afghanistan are en route to YVR. Lori Kalef at SPCA International explains what it took to get the animals to Canada.

With files from On The Coast

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