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'Biggest day of our lives': Plane with hundreds of rescue animals from Afghanistan lands in Vancouver

A massive aircraft carrying nearly 300 dogs and cats rescued from Afghanistan touched down at Vancouver International Airport Tuesday night.

The converted Russian military jet landed just after 6 p.m., capping off a two-day journey.

The animals were left stranded after their owners fled the country following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.

Rescuers in in the country's capital city, Kabul, attempted to get them out, but were unsuccessful.

“The dogs were left on the tarmac to fend for themselves, it was the most horrifying experience in animal welfare, the whole world was watching," said Lori Kalef of SPCA International.

However, for the next six months, the SPCA and partners, including the Kabul Small Animal Rescue, banded together on a mission to evacuate the animals safely.

On Sunday night, their mission was finally accomplished. The animals were loaded up onto the 86-tonne aircraft and, after stops in Turkey and Iceland, they finally arrived at YVR.

"I can freely say for all of us this is probably one of the biggest days of our lives,” said the founder of Thank Dog I am out, Susan Patterson.

A large crowd gathered on the tarmac in anticipation of their arrival. Among them was an anxious cat owner, Gary Ash.

“It’s been building up for five months," he said.

While on deployment for the United States in Kabul, Ash made a new friend.

“One of the cats that worked in the camp basically adopted me,” Ash said.

After he departed, his cat “Tay Tay” was supposed to be held at the U.S. Embassy, but it never happened.

"It was heart wrenching, just knowing you had to leave your animals behind like that," he said.

He says he thought this day most likely wouldn’t come, but Wednesday, he’ll be taking Tay Tay back home to the United States.

“It's elating," Ash said.

Many of the animals will be re-united with their owners, while the rest will be kept at 17,000 square-foot, new renovated facility in the south terminal at YVR, and will soon be up for adoption.

"It will be the first step to the best part of their life ahead of them," Patterson said. Top Stories

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