Hundreds of rescue animals headed to US from Afghanistan

The planning and fundraising has been monumental to get the rescue flight carrying dogs and cats to the U.S.
4 of the contract working dogs
Posted at 2:58 PM, May 17, 2024

Animal rescue is a common business in the U.S., but the same can't be said in Afghanistan. The Kabul Small Animal Rescue, run by American Charlotte Maxwell-Jones, is one of the only animal welfare groups in the country.

In early June, Maxwell-Jones and her team will be loading hundreds of dogs and cats onto a charter rescue flight from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Washington, D.C.

"This is an airlift that is that is meant to lower our population and make us sustainable for the future," she explained.

Maxwell-Jones has lived in Afghanistan for more than a decade. When she couldn't find quality care for her own animals, she started the rescue in 2018, but she never imagined how big the operation would become.

KSAR is currently home to about 450 animals, including over 300 dogs, 110 cats, six sheep, two goats, one cow, three peacocks, two roosters, two bunnies, four tortoises and 14 budgies, which are a type of small parakeet.

The rescue flight to the U.S. is dogs and cats only, but the planning and fundraising required is monumental.

What's the biggest hurdle she has to overcome? Maxwell-Jones said it's hard to pick just one thing. "Placement for 300 animals, permits from every government from Afghanistan to the U.S., and then raising close to $800,000 in an environment where nobody's paying attention in Afghanistan," she explained.

Among the 300 dogs and cats scheduled to be on the flight are nine contract working dogs. They worked alongside NATO and U.S. troops before the American withdrawal in 2021.

"These were dogs that were simply released on the tarmac, and some of them are younger and a bit more difficult, which is why they were given to us, but most are quite old," Maxwell-Jones said.

A baggage handler from American Airlines with a dog in a crate

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After arriving in the U.S., most of the animals will be picked up by rescue organizations from all over North America. Those nine working dogs will go to Mission K9 Rescue in Texas, where Kristen Maurer and her team will take over.

"We do bloodwork and X rays, and we get their dentals. We do all of the medically sound things after they've decompressed about two weeks," Maurer explained. "And then once they do that, then we start working to rehab them and just getting them to where they can start getting ready to go into a home."

Maurer said it can take weeks or even months for a former working dog to be ready for adoption. "We call ourselves un-trainers, we undo everything they've done in the working world," she said.

But Maurer believes former working and military dogs deserve a happy retirement. "To me, any dog that has spent their entire life giving to mankind deserves some time off to just be a dog," she said.

As of Friday morning, Maxwell-Jones still needed to raise about $200,000 and the deadline is just one week away.

But she said failure is not an option.