After months of planning, Kabul Small Animal Rescue (KSAR) organized the transfer of nearly 300 pets from Afghanistan to the United States, and 13 of those dogs are now settling in Maine foster homes while seeking new families.

A Kabul Small Animal Rescue staff worker shares a loving moment on June 1 with a golden retriever, who later flown to the U.S. and put up for adoption. Charlotte Maxwell-Jones photo

On June 3, 194 dogs and 100 cats left Kabul en route to Poland, then Washington D.C. After arriving in the nation’s capitol, the animals were unloaded from wooden crates, inspected and dispersed to 40 different rescue organizations, including Woolwich-based Passion for Pets.

Two days and four ground transports later, 13 canines arrived in Maine.

The $800,000 endeavor was spearheaded by American founder of KSAR, Charlotte Maxwell-Jones.

Maxwell-Jones first arrived in Afghanistan in 2010 to conduct fieldwork for her doctorate from the University of Michigan. She later returned in 2015 to found KSAR — one of the few animal welfare groups in the country.

Since 2019, the organization has grown to maintain 85 staff members, all of whom were instrumental in the June expedition, Maxwell-Jones said.

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This was the first time Passion for Pets, a group of Midcoast animal rescue volunteers, teamed up with KSAR.

Passion for Pets Adoption Coordinator Leann Ryan handles adoption applications and intakes. She was tasked with the feat of sorting through all 300 photos to select 10 dogs to transfer to Woolwich.

“At first I told KSAR we’d only take 10 dogs,” Ryan said. “But as the transport grew closer, there were still 60 dogs without anywhere to go. [Maxwell-Jones] looped back around, asking each rescue to take another dog. That’s how we ended up with three more.”

Nearly 300 pets arrived at Dulles Airport in Washington DC from Kabul, Afghanistan, on June 3. They were unloaded from wooden crates, inspected by the CPC and sent to 40 different animal rescues. Charlotte Maxwell-Jones photo

When asked how she chose which dogs to take, Ryan said she had focused on the dogs’ facial expressions in the photos. She explained that large brindle dogs and black dogs are harder to place.

“I know what people tend to look for,” Ryan said. “Regardless, in my heart of hearts, I have a soft spot for dogs with special needs, so of course I chose one with three legs.”

Lois Kilby-Chesley was one of the volunteers who helped transport the dogs from Dulles International Airport to Woolwich. She signed up to foster Mish, a 5-year-old mixed breed.

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Over the past decade, Kilby-Chesley has fostered dogs with Almost Home Rescue and Wynne Friends of Animals. In fact, the three dogs she currently has are a result of “foster failures,” in which the foster ends up adopting the animal outright.

“Some dogs I just can’t give up, so I adopt them,” Kilby-Chesley said. “Years ago, I was a flight buddy for Baku street dogs on a flight from Azerbaijan to NYC. Their stories stuck with me. So, when I saw that dogs from Kabul needed rescuing, I had to step up.”

So far, Mish has been adjusting well. Kilby-Chesley said she has already befriended her other dogs.

“Mish had two transport legs from D.C. to Sturbridge, Massachusetts, then to Durham,” she said. “Everything is a new experience for her — running water in the sink, the refrigerator humming, a grassy play yard and even a toilet that flushes. New sounds, smells and language are a lot to get used to. She spent her first few days catching up on sleep and exploring.”

Ryan emphasized that patience and compassion is crucial for those interested in adoption/fostering.

Mish plays outside at his foster home in Durham on June 7. Lois Kilby-Chesley photo

“A lot of people forget there’s a language barrier,” Ryan said. “It’s important to remember these dogs aren’t ignoring you. If you Google Translate words, they will listen and engage. And decompression is huge; they need to feel secure, so don’t expect too much too soon. If they start alligator rolling, just be patient — they aren’t used to collars. In time, they’ll become more cooperative for a walk.”

On average, Ryan said the adjustment phase takes 10 days. While forever-fostering isn’t an option for many, she acknowledged the price of nonengagement is often death.

“We’re called to see the bigger picture,” Ryan said. “Without fosters, we can’t save lives.”

For those interested, Passion for Pets still has eight animals up for adoption and two more looking for foster homes. To inquire, visit pprorg.com/available-pets for more information.


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