Aviacon Zitotrans Il-76. Photo: Aviacon
Russian cargo airline Aviacon has transported hundreds of cats and dogs from Kabul in Afghanistan to Canada on an Aviacon Zitotrans Il-76.
The 156 dogs and 133 cats were carried aboard the Avicon RA-76502 aircraft, which took off from Kabul on January 30 and landed in British Columbia two days later after stopovers in Turkey and Iceland.
The pets belong to diplomats, troops and contractors who left Afghanistan in August 2021 as the Taliban took control of the country.
Charlotte Maxwell-Jones, who cared for the animals at Kabul Small Animal Rescue (KSAR) and organised their evacuation, supervised the loading at Hamid Kharzai International in Kabul.
The crates were carefully stacked in rows, which allowed volunteers and a veterinary team onboard to check on the animals, feed, water and clean them throughout the flight. To make their experience even less stressful, the pressure inside the aircraft was optimised and the temperature was set to 20-23°C.
There were two vets onboard – Derick Stone from KSAR and Jeff Berri, a volunteer from another animal rescue agency, No Dogs Left Behind. Along with Aviacon’s cargo deck crew, they did their best to make sure the animals were safe and feeling well throughout the long journey. They were assisted by dozens of volunteers in Turkey and Iceland during the stopovers.
After arriving in Canada, the refugee animals were transferred to a specially built facility at Vancouver International Airport. Efforts are being made to reunite the pets with their owners.
The original plan was to go east via Siberia with the final leg from Yakutsk to Vancouver, but the route had to be changed because of the harsh weather conditions.