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Hundreds of rescued animals from Afghanistan land in Canada

Kabul Small Animal Rescue spent months planning the animals' 65-hour journey.
Rescuing Afghanistan Animals
Posted at 3:03 PM, Feb 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-15 17:38:59-05

An American woman went viral last summer when she desperately tried to get shelter animals out of Afghanistan as U.S. troops were evacuating.

She wasn't successful before the Taliban took over the country, but she never gave up.

Now months of planning, thousands of pages of paperwork, countless volunteers and worldwide donors have all culminated in one heartwarming moment at the Vancouver, Canada, airport.

Charlotte Maxwell-Jones' determination helped 286 dogs and cats take a 65-hour journey from Kabul to Turkey to Iceland and ultimately to the safety of Vancouver through Kabul Small Animal Rescue.

"Everything took longer than it should have," Maxwell-Jones said. "We did not assume everything would go to plan, and I'm glad about that because nothing ever does here. So we had backup plan after backup plan."

As U.S. troops were drawing down in Afghanistan, Maxwell-Jones knew that keeping these animals safe meant getting them out of the country, but her attempts to get them out last summer failed. 

"We went to the airport with plans," she said. "We had backup plans; every single one of those failed in spectacular ways, and then started, I guess, five months of sort of living out a nightmare."

After the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the rescue had to make some changes, and women and men could no longer work together. 

"It was a pretty brutal hit to not be able to have any women working for us pretty much immediately," Maxwell-Jones said.

But she never gave up hope.

A handful of rescue groups from around the world helped coordinate the evacuation, including SPCA International, which received all the four-legged evacuees in Canada.

Maxwell-Jones stayed behind in Afghanistan.

She says her work there isn't done.  

"We've gotten permission to work with pretty much every animal in the country that we can, and we're able to provide care in ways that we didn't think we could, so in some way there is a silver lining," Maxwell-Jones said.

The Kabul Small Animal Rescue still has about 160 animals in its care, and they're not all dogs and cats.  

"The tortoises are currently hibernating in my gym," Maxwell-Jones said.

"The sheep are in my lawn, probably eating the tree right now, and the peacocks are inside, and we still have them. They're incredibly loud."

By this time next year, Maxwell-Jones doesn't think she'll be living in Afghanistan full-time, but she wants to make sure her Kabul Small Animal Rescue survives.

"We're hoping to put in all the work necessary to make this again, a sort of state-of-the-art veterinary clinic and rescue and functional and basically be a resource for animals here because there aren't many," Maxwell-Jones  said.

This story was first reported by Stephanie Liebergen and Alexandra Miller at Newsy.