It’s an operation that has been five months in the making and it’s being called Mission Possible.
A plane filled with animals rescued from Afghanistan is set to arrive in Vancouver Tuesday.
Dogs and cats whose owners were forced to leave them behind and others who were living on the streets are closer than ever to their forever homes.
SPCA International says it has been working non-stop to rescue the 154 dogs and 131 cats since last summer when the U.S. military withdrew from the country.
Lori Kalef, director of programs for SPCA International told Global News it works with numerous organizations around the world to reduce animal suffering. For this particular operation, it worked with Kabul Small Animal Rescue, War Paws, Marley’s Mutts, Thank DOG I Am Out Rescue Society and more.
She said they were contacted by Kabul Small Animal Rescue last summer and they asked for help to evacuate the animals before the Taliban moved in.
However, the priority became getting people out of the country and dogs and cats were stranded in Afghanistan.
On Aug. 31, 2021, when the last U.S. troops left the country, Kalef said they were not able to get the animals out and they had to be released onto the tarmac with no other place to go.
“So fast forward to five months later, we have never given up we have been rather quiet, working behind the scenes,” Kalef added.
The owner of Kabul Small Animal Rescue is an American citizen and she has been able to stay behind to help rescue more animals and form a relationship with the current government.
About 35 per cent of the animals arriving in Vancouver will be reunited with their Afghan owners, Kalef explained, while others will be held for their owners who haven’t yet arrived and the rest will be put up for adoption across North America.
“The fact is that if they stayed behind in Afghanistan, they wouldn’t live,” Kalef added. “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.
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“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.”
“Our role here has almost come to an end,” Susan Patterson, owner of Thank DOG I Am Out Rescue Society, based in Vancouver, told Global News.
“We’ve created a 17,000-square-foot temporary holding facility here at the south terminal. We’re super excited about the ability to make these animals feel comfortable and safe until we can place them.”
Patterson said all the animals have been assessed by veterinarians, they are up-to-date on their injections, they have correct papers and are all healthy and able to travel.
Volunteers and handlers will be available at the south terminal facility 24 hours a day while the animals are settled and processed.
This journey has been made possible through donations.
“We have had so many incredible donors step in, we have people who are volunteering step in and we have people sharing all our posts and fundraising efforts,” Kalef added.
“I think that people don’t recognize the amount of humans that it takes across the world not just in one location. I keep using this term, we’re holding hands across the world for the same cause.”