EXCLUSIVE: Animal rescue founder escapes Kabul with 200 cats and dogs

The Daily Mail:

But is forced to leave his Afghan staff behind after they told him to go without them so he could make it to airport, his wife reveals

  • Ex-marine Pen Farthing has escaped Kabul , Afghanistan with 200 cats and dogs
  • He was unfortunately had to leave behind his Afghan staff behind in the country
  • His wife Kaisa Markhus revealed he was delighted to say he was coming back

The wife of animal charity founder and former marine Pen Farthing last night spoke of her joy that her husband and his furry friends looked to be on their way home.

Kaisa Markhus, who fled Afghanistan last week for her native Norway, was eating dinner with her father in Oslo when Pen video-called her from inside Kabul airport. ‘You should have seen the smile on my face,’ she said.

Following Thursday’s carnage, Kaisa knew her husband was planning another attempt to reach the airport – but had no idea when or if he would make it safely to Kabul.

Talking exclusively to the Daily Mail about Pen’s dramatic evacuation, she said: ‘He’s now inside the airport and we had a quick video call. The second I saw him safely inside… you can imagine.’

Her husband and his animals escaping Kabul is the dream she has clung to ever since she was flown out of the city on a near-empty flight. 

She learned last night that Pen, having made it through Taliban checkpoints, had been finally allowed to board a flight with 150 rescue cats and dogs from his Nowzad charity – but he was forced to leave his staff members behind.

‘I know Pen had a very hard choice. He faced that same choice when he was inside the airport with his staff and their families on Thursday and the animals and the staff were not allowed through,’ says Kaisa. 

‘So, he went back to the compound to ensure everyone was safe and to discuss with them what to do. They decided he should go to the airport again with the dogs. 

‘He was devastated to leave his staff but knew that by removing both the dogs and himself he would remove two big risk factors.’

The founder of Kabul’s Nowzad animal shelter, Paul Farthing – known as Pen – had been attempting to arrange a freedom flight in an operation dubbed ‘Operation Ark’.

British soldiers helped load the animals on to a privately chartered plane last night as they prepared to return to the UK. 

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the group were ‘assisted through the system at Kabul airport by the UK Armed Forces’.

Last night his supporter and animal rights campaigner Dominic Dyer told the Mail: ‘Pen is OK, but he is very stressed. 

‘He has no choice but to leave and bring the animals with him. We are looking forward to getting them to the UK.


As we spoke yesterday afternoon – before news of her husband’s evacuation was known – she was sitting at her mother’s dining room table in a top borrowed from her sister and a newly bought pair of jeans. 

She had fled Kabul with nothing but a toothbrush and some deodorant. Even the book she had been reading was left behind on the table beside the double bed that, until ten days ago, she shared with Pen.

That they may soon hold each other again – and can start to plan their married life together – is enough to bring her to tears.

‘I cried as I was leaving Kabul,’ she says. ‘I was one of the lucky ones. When I was in the Norwegian camp at the airport there were three kids – babies – I was playing with who’d been separated from their parents. We had to leave them behind.

‘I thought, “I won’t see Kabul again. I might not see Pen again”. I was crying for those babies. What the f*** is this crisis about that we’re leaving small kids behind who have no one?’

She showed me a short video on her phone of the children playing at the airport. The soldiers and evacuees fussed over the poor little souls. 

‘Two days later, I heard Norway had decided to bring them [the babies] over here. I told Pen on the phone that the babies were in Norway now. 

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