Rescued Afghan dogs arrive at Toronto shelter

TORONTO — A mixed-breed mutt named Papo hunted for toys and rolled around in the sun on a recent clear day at a dog shelter in East Toronto.

It’s a change of pace for Papo after a long journey from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan to Canada, where she arrived last month along with 10 other dogs evacuated from the country by the animal welfare group No Dogs Left Behind.

Group spokesman Jeffrey Beri said the organization has brought hundreds of dogs and cats from Kabul to Canada since January, after the animals were abandoned when US troops withdrew from the country last summer.

“I hope they get the love and attention they so deserve,” Beri said of the Afghan hounds’ new life in Canada.

The last 10 dogs to arrive were either too young or not strong enough to travel on the first flight in January. The organization now aims to have them taken care of and adopted into new homes as soon as possible, once they have been rehabilitated and vetted.

When dogs first arrived at the No Dogs Left Behind safehouse, Beri said they are often traumatized and must begin a process of rehabilitation to trust people again.

Consistency and routine are important factors for the dogs’ rehabilitation, he said. Rescue dogs at the shelter have very strict schedules for eating, going outside, having their shelters cleaned and socializing with other dogs.

It was a complicated journey for the animals. After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention banned imports of dogs to the US from countries it considers to be at high risk for rabies, including Afghanistan, Beri said it was getting harder to get the dogs to safety.

In January, Beri said he spent two weeks in Afghanistan assessing dogs being cared for by Kabul Small Animal Rescue. He then loaded them into a private cargo plane and accompanied the animals on the journey to start their new lives in Canada.

“In the end, the Afghans gave free passage to the dogs, I commend them for that,” he said.

Back in Toronto, Beri recalled an emotional family reunion this week at the animal shelter when Papo’s father arrived three puppies days after the three young dogs.

“We were all crying,” Beri said. “He’s here, he’s free, he couldn’t be happier to see Papo and Papo couldn’t be happier to see him.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 2, 2022.

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