Our History


In 2006.....

the men of Kilo Company of 42 Commando Royal Marines arrived in the war-torn town of 'Now Zad' in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Their mission; provide stability for the local people during a period of ever decreasing security.

A few of the Royal Marines soon realised that it wasn’t only the local people that needed their help and it was not long before many of the stray dogs that roamed the town of 'Now Zad' had a guardian for the first time in their lives; in the form of Royal Marine Sergeant 'Pen' Farthing.

Breaking up an organised dog fight that was taking place right outside their remote compound, Pen never realised that one of those fighting dogs would then befriend him. Obviously, the Royal Marine could not say no to those big sad eyes and the now ‘former fighting dog’ became the Sergeant's battle buddy.

And the dog received his first ever name – "Nowzad".

The 'tail' of the rescue of Nowzad and his other canine buddies from that remote desert outpost of Now Zad, was published as a best-selling book ‘One Dog at a Time’ which you can purchase from the Nowzad online store. All proceeds from the sale of the book through our website will support our charitable work in Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Nowzad was initially formed in 2007 to help soldiers rescue stray dogs and cats they had befriended whilst serving in various regions of Afghanistan. 

Over a period of almost 15 years, Nowzad rescued over 1700 dogs and cats, reuniting them with their ‘buddies’ in the USA, Canada, UK, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Australia, Thailand, japan, Spain, South Africa, Finland and Croatia.

Every single one is special to the charity and has a story to tell. 

However it was clear that Nowzad’s work didn’t end there. The pressing mission was to help the animals not so lucky to find peace and comfort away from the conflict. Pen was determined for the charity to start at the beginning and help those animals left behind, and the people of the war-torn country.

And so Nowzad’s first legacy was the opening of the country’s first proper small animal veterinary clinic and animal shelter in Kabul in 2008.

Afghanistan's first small animal veterinary clinic and animal shelter

The Nowzad charity mission was to provide;

  • Care and treatment for injured dogs and cats.

  • A dog shelter for around 150 dogs whilst waiting to be rehomed (Sadly, since the Taliban takeover of the country in 2021 we are not permitted to have a large scale dog sanctuary)

  • A Working Animal Program to provide treatment for working donkeys, horses and mules.

  • Animal husbandry education for the owners of working animals.

  • A cattery for 40 cats whilst waiting to be rehomed

  • Rabies education in local schools

  • Rabies prevention through TNVR programs

  • Soldier companion animal rescue for coalition troops

  • A donkey sanctuary for former working animals

  • Employment and training for Afghan nationals which included the first ever female veterinarians.

In 2021 Nowzad had a full time staff in Afghanistan of 24 Afghan nationals providing animal welfare services for both the local community and ex-pat organisations including embassies and security organisations.



Operation Ark

The events of August 2021 will forever be ingrained in the history of the Nowzad charity.

The team at the Nowzad clinic read both the American and British military intelligence reports published on the 7th August 2021 that predicted the Taliban would retake Afghanistan sometime in November of 2021. We started to prepare how we would rehome our animals within that time frame.

But nobody was prepared for the pace of the Taliban takeover, as just 8 days later on the 15th August 2021, they hoisted their flag over Kabul once more.

Pen Farthing was living with the team at the Nowzad clinic on that fateful day sat amongst the team of vets and support staff, many who were women who now could only contemplate a future of forced marriage whilst kept prisoner in their own homes for the rest of their lives, Pen made a choice.

The American and British forces were holding the airport to allow evacuations of ex-pats and Afghans who had worked for the British and American governments but the evacuation would only last two weeks at most.

The American and British forces were holding the airport to allow evacuations of ex-pats and Afghans who had worked for the British and American governments but the evacuation would only last two weeks at most.

The Nowzad team had rescued over 1700 dogs and cats for military personnel and currently worked within the UK and US embassies (where their biometric data was held) delivering veterinary services for working dogs.

The Nowzad staff had every right to be evacuated as had interpreters who had not worked with the British military since 2014 did, yet had remained living in Afghanistan for over 7 years before suddenly it was a priority to evacuate them.

Without wanting to take much needed resources away from the British military effort or take up valuable space on the evacuation aircraft; Pen launched Operation Ark; the mission to secure an aircraft from public charitable donations that would take the Nowzad staff in the passenger cabin and the dogs and cats in the cargo hold (where clearly you cannot transport people).


Sadly within days of the campaign starting to raise funds we hit a wall. The British government would not give permission for our privately funded aircraft to land in Kabul and so a very public social media campaign began to convince the UK government to allow the flight to land.

Not all went as well as planned and the media started a campaign that pitted the charity against the UK government under the banner of "pets before people".

The whole point of the charity’s ‘Operation Ark’ had been the evacuation of the staff but the press and many MPs chose to intentionally ignore it.

The fight became extremely heated on both sides.

The charity trustees and team planned for nearly 2 weeks whilst the evacuation of eligible citizens continued from Kabul airport.

Finally on the 26th Aug 2021 the Nowzad team left the clinic in Kabul with two buses of staff and their families and two trucks carrying the dogs and cats from the clinic. Their mission to enter Kabul airport to meet the privately funded aircraft.

Sadly, it was not to be. Taliban commanders carrying out the orders of US President Biden, who had issued a directive that only those with actual passports could enter the airport, even though our team had permission from the UK government, denied our team entry.

Things became worse when two ISIS fighters denoted their suicide vets at the Abbey gate and our team was caught up in those horrific events.

Thankfully the Nowzad team sustained no injures except the short term effects of tear gas and once safely back at the Nowzad clinic, a hard decision had to be made once more.

Pen (as he was a UK passport holder) would travel back to the airport with the dogs and cats. The Nowzad Afghan staff would evacuate overland to Pakistan where we could then fly them to the UK with their permission paperwork from the UK government.

On the 28th August 2021 (AFTER THE BRITISH MILITARY HAD LEFT) Pen took off on an empty aircraft with 74 cats and 94 dogs in the cargo hold. We repeatedly pleaded with the UK government to fill those empty seats. They refused.

On the 11th of September 2021, 67 Afghan nationals compromising of staff and their families including very young children crossed into Pakistan for their journey to the UK.


The Foreign select committee hearing eventually returned a verdict that Nowzad did no wrong doing during the evacuation – you can read more here.

  • No British troops came outside ‘the wire’ to put their lives at risk assisting Pen into the airport with the two trucks of dogs and cats – he got through the Taliban checkpoints himself.
  • No UK tax payers money funded the private aircraft
  • Pen did not contact Boris Johnson (the PM at the time) directly. Pen has never had the PM’s number nor that of his wife.
  • The empty seats (all 229 of them) were offered to the UK government for other eligible evacuees. The British Government refused.
  • American service men and women helped Pen to load the aircraft.

The charity commission held an investigation that lasted 10 long months but returned a verdict of 'no wrong doing' to be found in relation to the expenditure involved in Operation Ark.

The Afghan staff and their families once settled into the UK began their new lives in the knowledge that they were safe. They have embraced their freedom, learning English, finding jobs and homes and undertaking training.


Nowzad in Ukraine 

Within weeks of Russia’s illegal and horrifying invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022, the Nowzad charity put out an appeal for dog and cat food and medical supplies.

The Nowzad family did not disappoint. Soon our small office in Tiverton was overwhelmed and we were forced to take additional storage in the surrounding area to cope with the supplies whilst they were processed ready to be exported to Ukraine.

The Nowzad charity opened a warehouse in eastern Poland as a staging post for supplies to be transported across the border into Ukraine. We formed a Ukrainian charitable fund ‘Nowzad Lviv’ to operate and manage a warehouse for donated goods to arrive before they are being distributed to volunteer local groups in the east and south of the country tasked with supporting the animal shelters and communities under direct attack from the Russian military where most supply chains are limited and animal food is not a priority.

To cope with the demand for animal food and medical supplies desperately needed in Ukraine the charity moved to a warehouse / office of our own so that we can effectively process donated supplies and get them where they are needed as quickly as possible. You can read more about our work in Ukraine here

Opening as the country's first and only animal hospital

During the chaos of the August 2021 evacuation, several of our team chose to stay in Afghanistan with their families, this allowed us to continue operating the first ever donkey sanctuary in Afghanistan; a vital facility for the overburdened donkeys worked remorselessly on the streets of Kabul. With the withdrawal of all coalition soldiers from Afghanistan our soldier companion animal rescues, has now ceased.


But with permission from the sitting Taliban government we have been able to rebuild the Nowzad clinic to continue our vital work in Afghanistan, which includes animal welfare education to prevent the spread of rabies and practical training for Kabul veterinary university. The dedication and relentless hard work of the Kabul team has shown in the expansion of their work and has resulted in the clinic being given ‘Animal Hospital’ status in 2023.

We also ensure that all dogs and cats that pass through our clinic are either spayed or neutered and fully vaccinated against rabies.

Our working animal programme for the over worked and under cared for donkeys and horses of Afghanistan is vitally important to turn the tide on the brutal lives that these animals must endure with no respite.

The horrors of the brick kiln industry in Kabul is beyond words and Nowzad is taking an active role in supporting those poor horses and donkeys with treatment followed up by education for their owners.

Please do donate today to be the difference. Every donation we receive is needed and makes a big impact for our work for the animals with no voice but yours.

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In 2023...

Animals treated at our Veterinary Hospital in Kabul
Animals Vaccinated against Rabies
Students taught about Animal Welfare
Posters and leaflets distributed to communities across Kabul on animal husbandry
Items of veterinary aid (medicines and equipment) and 5.6 tonnes of supplies (animal carriers, beds, harnesses etc.) delivered to veterinary practices and animal shelters across Ukraine
Tonnes of dog and cat food delivered across Ukraine


Have you read the story of how the Nowzad charity started? Nowzad founder Pen Farthing has written 3 books; One Dog at a Time, (A Sunday Times best seller), No Place like Home and Wylie. 

All proceeds from the books when purchased through our online store support our work in Afghanistan and Ukraine and they are signed by Pen as well!

You can purchase your books here!

And Pen's fourth book, the true story of Operation Ark, will be published in July 2024!