Kabul animal rescue tried to save pets who couldn’t get out of Afghanistan

A Kabul-based animal rescue tried to get dozens of dogs and cats out of the Taliban-controlled locale before American troops left but they weren’t allowed on military aircraft, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International wrote in a news release. 

The Kabul Small Animal Rescue, a veterinary clinic and rescue in the Afghanistan capital, had at least 130 dogs under their care and an additional number of cats but weren’t able to get them out of the country when numerous private charter aircrafts couldn’t gain access to the airport. 

“Most of the KSAR dogs had to be released into the airport on August 30 as the airport was evacuated — turning once rescued shelter dogs into homeless strays,” SPCAI wrote in the release. 

“They were not given access to the flight we had secured to transport them out of the country. They are within the airport in an area used for housing employees at the far end of the flight line. We haven’t been able to confirm the number of dogs released,” the group continued.

Scenes around the abandoned airport area where civilians were processed for evacuations now that the American forces have completed their withdrawal from the country and Taliban fighters moved in to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021.
Scenes around the abandoned airport area where civilians were processed for evacuations now that the American forces have completed their withdrawal, Aug. 31, 2021.
Marcus Yam/LA Times via Getty Images

“During her departure from the airport on August 30, Charlotte [KSAR rescuer] requested the U.S. Military open the bags of dog food she was able to bring into the airport and scatter their contents in the area where the dogs had been released,” the statement said.

All military working dogs with the US armed forces left with their handlers ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline, but the stray animals with KSAR couldn’t leave because of issues with “customs,” the Department of Defense told USA Today and the Washington Examiner

“The U.S. priority mission was the evacuation of U.S. citizens, SIV, and vulnerable Afghans. However, to correct erroneous reports, the U.S. military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, to include the reported ‘military working dogs,’” a DOD spokesperson told the Washington Examiner, referencing a viral photo showing dog cages at the Kabul airport. 

“Photos circulating online were animals under the care of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue, not dogs under the care of the U.S. military. Despite an ongoing complicated and dangerous retrograde mission, U.S. forces went to great lengths to assist the Kabul Small Animal Rescue as much as possible,” the spokesperson said.

Refugees disembark from a US air force aircraft after an evacuation flight from Kabul at the Rota naval base in Rota, southern Spain, on August 31, 2021.
Dozens of dogs and cats weren’t allowed on military aircraft.

The SPCAI said a new policy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that suspended the transport of dogs from Afghanistan and more than 100 other countries “was another terrible impediment, despite our negotiations and pleadings.” 

“We applied for an Emergency Exemption so that Charlotte and the dogs could get out on our chartered flight this week. But the CDC’s adherence to its import policy during this time of crisis put animals and people at risk,” SPCAI wrote. 

“We are alarmed that leaders at the CDC are not bringing a more balanced perspective to the importation of dogs, especially after the U.S. House of Representatives rebuked CDC on this issue and passed an amendment to restore a proper screening process,” the group continued. 

“If Charlotte and her staff had been allowed to take their animals – with the support of private animal rescue groups that had paid for and organized a charter flight – they’d be safe, and so would the animals. Now she’s still in Kabul, desperately working to bring these animals into a safer space.”

Taliban fighters patrol along a street in Kabul on August 29, 2021, as suicide bomb threats hung over the final phase of the US military's airlift operation from Kabul, with President Joe Biden warning another attack was highly likely before the evacuations end.
The stray animals with KSAR couldn’t leave because of issues with “customs.”
Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

SPCAI said the animals and KSAR’s primary rescuer Charlotte are safe for the moment and efforts to get the animals out are continuing. 

“Moving forward, KSAR’s primary objective is to return to the airport — when it is safe and with the hope of Taliban cooperation — to try and retrieve or re-rescue the animals who were released at the airport,” SPCAI said.

KSAR posted a brief update on their Facebook page late Tuesday local time saying they are “busting their tails” to save the remaining animals. 

“Charlotte here! I want to apologize for the quiet social media. We are busy making plans, checking them twice, sorting out details, and keeping things quiet to maintain our own and the animals’ security,” KSAR wrote.

“We know it’s not the most satisfying feed to follow, but please know that behind the scenes we are busting our tails to do everything we can to save our furry friends, and we deeply appreciate everyone’s continued concern and support.”