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Operation Paw-dom: The race to evacuate rescue pets from Kabul



Kabul-based animal-rescue organisations are calling for international support as they work to evacuate their four-legged patrons out of Afghanistan.

Staff from Kabul Small Animal Rescue with rescue dogs

International citizens and Afghans aren’t the only ones fleeing war-torn Afghanistan, with four-legged residents also trying to find a spot on a plane out of the country. 

Non-for-profit organisation and veterinary clinic, Kabul Small Animal Rescue, provides safe boarding options and medical care to hundreds of cats and dogs.

They also act as an adoption clinic, rehoming Afghan cats and dogs with new families internationally. 

But the recent Taliban takeover has the organisation calling upon international leaders for more support. 

With the Taliban’s foreign troop evacuation deadline fast-approaching, the organisation – where one-third of its employees are women – desperately need a way to leave the country. 

However, with rising flight costs, a lack of access to the Kabul airport and a permit required to board animals on and off planes, evacuating the large number of animals in their care isn’t an easy task. 

Brutal and uncertain conditions for both man, cat and dog

Charlotte Maxwell-Jones, founder of Kabul Small Animal Rescue, says the conditions are brutally hard, uncertain and that her staff are scared. 

“Our animals are receiving nonstop care, and will continue to until we can evacuate them,” Maxwell-Jones wrote in a statement.

“It is heartbreaking to have to leave the place we have put so much blood, sweat and tears into…We built this from the ground up and it breaks us all to have to leave it.”
Kabul smAll animal rescue “pupdate”

Nowzad, a similar non-for-profit animal-rescue organisation is also affected by the Taliban takeover.

The Kabul-based organisation plays a role in uniting stray cats and dogs with international soldiers, many becoming service members while their owners were on-duty.  

But with a number of international soldiers having completed their rounds and returning home, Nowzad also needs to transport their staff and a number of animals adopted by soldiers internationally.

“If we are able to secure any kind of evacuation for Pen [the organisation’s founder] and our team it simply can’t happen without guaranteed safe passage from their compound into and through Kabul airport,” the organisation wrote.

“If any move was to happen without this security in place, we risk the safety and lives of many.”

A plea to foreign leaders

In efforts to help global leaders recognise the urgency of this matter, the CEOs of Compassion in World Farming and World Animal Protection, alongside RSPCA are calling for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s support. 

Phillip Lymbery, Compassion in World Farming CEO and Steve McIvor, CEO of World Animal Protection addressed the British leaders in a letter, as they work to raise awareness about the situation of non-for-profit animal-rescue groups in Afghanistan. 

“As CEOs, we strongly urge you to effect the safe evacuation from Kabul of all Nowzad’s staff, their families and the animals in their shelter as a matter of urgency,” Lymbery and McIvor wrote.

“Please do everything in your power to get them to safety.”

Here’s what you can do to help

While subtle progress is made at snail pace, Charlotte Maxwell-Jones of Kabul Small Animal Rescue says there is plenty that individuals outside of Afghanistan can do to lend such organisations a helping hand.

“We need continued help fundraising because we are working on charter flight options for both our staff and our animals,” Maxwell-Jones wrote.

“We [also] need to keep up the publicity. This is an ongoing need, ongoing danger, and although we have plans in place, it is not resolved until every foot and paw is off the ground.”

Kabul Small Animal Rescue is also asking for cash due to closed banks and empty ATMs. 

Additionally they’re asking for any support available to help acquire a landing permit for animal charter planes. 

There are also several animals up for adoption and fostering opportunities. 

For those interested, the animal-rescue organisation asks that you contact them at

“It is likely that most of our staff will be allowed to move before the animals, because the US military will not grant a landing permit for a plane whose only manifest is animals,” Maxwell-Jones wrote.

“We will keep with us a small contingent of staff to help us get through the interim period, myself included.”

Written by Rebecca Borg

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