THE animals rescued as part of a daring operation out of Afghanistan are adjusting to life in quarantine after landing at Heathrow Airport.

Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing said almost all of his 173 dogs and cats have arrived in a “healthy” condition after his Operation Ark which captured the hearts of the nation.

However, the former Royal Marine from Dovercourt has said “the mission is far from over” as efforts continue to get his staff out of the war-torn country.

“I’ve got mixed emotions about it all still, it’s hard to really sit back and think about it all right now,” he said.

“I’m glad to be out of Kabul but, obviously, I’m still fairly stressed.

“I haven’t actually sat down and been happy about it all as the whole mission was the staff and the animals. We are still fully in mission mode figuring out a way to get the workers out.

“Once we’ve achieved the full aim I’ll probably sit down and have a glass of wine - not just to help me sleep but to toast a victory.”

Read more:

Mr Farthing’s campaign to get workers and animals from the Nowzad shelter out of Afghanistan received a huge amount of support.

Although visas were granted for his 24 staff and their dependents, Mr Farthing refused to leave without his pets and aimed to get them out of the country.

However, changes to paperwork requirements at the US controlled Kabul airport by President Joe Biden meant they were initially turned away on Thursday Mr Farthing has now praised an “absolutely amazing” team effort to get the animals back to the UK.

“We had all kinds of people involved, our team spoke every day and night on Zoom and the dedication has been absolutely amazing,” he added.

“The British soldiers on the ground were fabulous and couldn’t do enough to support me.

“I had loads of American soldiers coming up to me and saying ‘You’re the dog guy aren’t you?’ and offering their support.

“I guess I had become the dog guy, which was amusing and I really appreciated their help. Together we loaded the aircraft and without their help it would’ve been an impossible task.”

Of the animals now safely in quarantine in various locations across the UK, a lot are already owned by other British expats who were in Kabul, with some of the cats owned by members of the British Embassy.

“Others need to be adopted,” Mr Farthing added, “But that will come.

“Some of the soldiers couldn’t take their rescue animals home as they were on the military flights, so I took them on and will look to reunite them as soon as possible.

“We will follow the correct quarantine process and then begin to look to the future and where Nowzad will go.”