Pen Farthing latest: news and update on Nowzad animal rescue from Afghanistan - were dogs and cats evacuated?

68 Nowzad staff and dependants, including 25 children and one new-born baby, are still in Afghanistan

A former Royal Marine has managed to evacuate 100 dogs, 70 cats and his staff from Afghanistan.

Paul Farthing, known as “Pen”, founded the Nowzad animal shelter in Kabul after serving with the British Army in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s, with the organisation rescuing dogs, cats and donkeys.

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The charity began with Farthing adopting a stray dog while serving in Helmand province, and the shelter now looks after nearly 140 dogs and 40 cats - a team of 24 Afghan nationals treat and look after the animals.

Farthing’s “Operation Ark” campaign became hugely topical on social media, with some complaining it was distracting from the focus on evacuating the most vulnerable out of Afghanistan.

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is ‘Operation Ark’?

Since the collapse of the Afghan government, Farthing had been campaigning to have all his staff and their families, as well as 200 cats and dogs, evacuated from the country in a plan he dubbed “Operation Ark”.

The UK public first became aware of Farthing on 16 August, when he appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

Becoming visibly emotional while describing the situation in Kabul, he told the programme: “We have no idea what’s coming next in the next few days, I’m just trying to hold it together.”

The charity launched Operation Ark to fundraise £200,000 to help evacuate Farthing’s staff, their dependants and the charity’s animals out of the country.

Supporters in Britain also began working to try to help Farthing and his team depart safely from Afghanistan.

A drive, called “Rescue the Animal Rescuers”, was set up calling for the Government to help the Nowzad workers and a second animal welfare charity in Kabul called the Mayhew.

Dominic Dyer, an animal welfare campaigner and supporter of Farthing who helped start the campaign, said: “Over the last decade through the incredible work of Nowzad and the Mayhew a new generation of Afghan men and women have been educated and empowered to bring about a significant improvement in animal welfare in Afghanistan.

“We cannot leave these brave and compassionate people behind to face violent reprisals, rape or murder at the hands of the Taliban, as a nation of animal lovers we must step up and rescue the animal rescuers.”

What’s the latest?

A dog looks on after a checkup and surgery in the medical facility of the Nowzad Dogs Shelter in Kabul (Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Paul “Pen” Farthing arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport in a privately funded charter flight at about 7.30am on Sunday 29 August; he was able to bring almost 100 dogs and 70 cats with him.

All of the animals on the flight were “healthy”, with the dogs placed in kennels, according to Dyer, but Farthing has said he is still working to help evacuate animal shelter staff and family members from Afghanistan.

68 Nowzad staff and dependents, including 25 children and one new-born baby, are still in the country.

Farthing said: “We’d like to thank the Home Office, FCDO, MoD and all of Govt for their support with Op Ark, and look forward to working closely with them over the coming weeks whilst we complete our mission, getting those 68 people out of Afghanistan and back to safety.

“Whilst those vulnerable staff, mostly young women, remain in danger in Afghanistan, we shall not rest.”

It comes after the ex-Marine apologised for leaving an expletive-laden message for a Government aide as he was trying to carry out the evacuation.

On Monday, Farthing told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I’m incredibly embarrassed about my language, I do apologise to everybody who’s listened to that.

“I was at the lowest point I could possibly be. I understand how the world works but emotions got the better of me, so for all those who had to listen to that I do apologise for my language.

“I should not have said it like that, but the sentiment, yes, I was just incredibly upset, angry, frustrated, it was the lowest point. I had no other option, I didn’t know what else to do.

“So that’s why you’ve probably heard some colourful language.”

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