Raven Country News interviewed Lori Kalef, the Director of Programs at SPCA International about the intense and complicated rescue mission.
Lori Kalef spoke with us about the recent rescue mission from Kabul Afghanistan, which resulted in about 300 dogs and cats being brought to the safety of Canada. To be reunited with their families, or to find forever homes here.
SPCA International utilizes a vast network of partners to coordinate emergency response efforts in situations like this, they have partners in over 80 countries, one of which is Kabul Small Animal Rescue.
“They contacted us in the summer of 2021, and they knew there was going to be a new government coming into Afghanistan. this might not be a good thing for these animals, so they were hoping to evacuate all the animals before the government came in and took over. However nobody really understood the urgency at the time, they came in a lot faster than anticipated.” Kalef said.
Kabul Small Animal Rescue is run by an American, Charlotte Maxwell Jones, who was dealing with chaos on the ground as refugees, foreign nationals, and the US army we're all fleeing Afghanistan at the same time. The animals became a low priority among the drastic need to get everyone to safety.
Lori told us, “I could list about 500 barriers from here until tomorrow”.
One such barrier was the US CDC’s current embargo on dogs and cats being brought in from a wide variety of other countries. This left Canada as the only viable option for a safe haven.
“The word of this entire mission has been “Pivot”. We’ve all come together to be able to do that.”
When the Taliban Government took power, nobody expected to have a working relationship with them, but Charlotte was able to. She got a license and permission to go to the airport and attempt to gather the rest of the dogs that were released onto the tarmac when the US troops fully evacuated and couldn’t care for them.
“Many dogs lost their lives over the last few months. But about 80 or 90 were retrieved from the tarmac and brought to British Columbia.” Kalef said.
They created a coalition with Thank Dog I’m Out to reconfigure a 17,000 ft facility that is owned by Signature Aviation on the tarmac at the south terminal airport in Vancouver. With the Raincoast Dog Society, and various other rescue operations, to be able to safely house the animals that are rescued.
“She (Charlotte) knew her animals would have a safe place to go, and her determination never ended, and so she stayed in Kabul to see this through and the plane took off.”
She continued, “I took her for a video tour of the facility, she had tears in her eye when she was looking at all the animals. This must be hard for you because you love them so much, and she said ‘well you know the old saying, when you love something, set it free, but also when you love something, get it out of Afghanistan.’”
About a third of the animals rescued will be reunited with their families from Afghanistan, one of those stories came to Lori’s mind.
“We have quite a few families, Afghan refugees who have sought refuge here in Vancouver and Seattle. We had the opportunity to meet with them, theres something I have to say about speaking with the owners who made it out of the evacuation, these are absolutely the kindest, warmest, most grateful humans on the planet I think.”
“We had a family come, the youngest daughter only made it out about 10 days ago, her sister has been here for a while. She came to the shelter the other day to see her two cats, she had to leave several behind, they’re safe.” Lori said.
“But when she saw her two cats her eyes were just filled with tears, she couldn’t express herself in english. But then I looked at her and she caught me eyes and She started to sob, I was sobbing. Now she’s there every day, she’s actually volunteering at the Cattery.”
SPCA International on the USA/Canada side is leading the coalition with Thank Dog I’m Out and Raincoast Rescue Society here in Vancouver, they have a team of volunteers who have worked 24 hours a day to get this facility ready for the animals.
“Its definitely a ‘we’, working in partnership with so many different organizations, it may seem difficult, but when you have one cause in mind, one goal to make sure that these animals safe and the people are safe that are looking after them. The work is just incredible to witness and be a part of."
“Raincoast Dog Rescue Society, founded and run by Jesse Adams, is living at the facility with his colleagues Owen and the owner of ‘Refined Canine’. They are there 24 hours a day living at the shelter, I don’t think they’ve gotten sleep and its been a week. I have never witnessed such determination, I am absolutely so proud to see how they are handling this, its no easy feat. We are all working tirelessly around the clock.”
“One of our other partners is “No Dog Left Behind”, they do primarily emergency rescue evacuations from the dog meat trade animals in China. The founder Jeff Barry got in an airplane, he flew to Afghanistan to accompany all the dogs and cats home to Vancouver. They took close to 20 in their dog based refuge in Toronto as well.”
Lori told us that 285 dogs and cats have landed in Vancouver.
“We definitely didn’t want to focus and put any burden on one particular region for the animals that needed to be adopted out. Instead of being reunited, because theres only about 33% will be reunited with their owners, the rest do need to find good loving homes.”
There are so many rescue organizations that have stepped in, theres too many to mention.
If anybody is in the local area, they have had volunteers flying in from all around the world to be able to volunteer, but Thank Dog I’m Out has a link to sign up to volunteer.
To donate, adopt, or find out more information visit FB and Instagram at SPCA International, Raincoast Dog Rescue Society, or Thank Dog I’m Out.
Kalef tells us that If you want to adopt directly Raincoast Dog Society is directly taking applications, just mark Kabul on the application so they know directly that you want to rescue a dog or cat from this mission.