Some of the 173 animals airlifted out of Kabul by former Marine Pen Farthing were infected with a disease that could spread to humans, it has been claimed.

Mr Farthing courted controversy during his attempts to rescue the animals from the Nowzad animal charity as Afghanistan's capital city fell to the Taliban in August.

He was accused of interfering with the efforts to evacuate British nationals from Kabul and left an expletive-filled voicemail to a government aide, saying he would "destroy" him if he didn't approve the flight out of the country.

It has now been reported by the Mail on Sunday that some of the dogs on the plane over to the UK were infected with Brucella canis, a contagious bacterial infection that can cause spontaneous abortions in animals and can, in some cases, be passed on to humans.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “We have some of the strongest biosecurity and safety controls in the world to help protect people and animals against diseases coming into the country.

“Rabies is endemic in Afghanistan and there are other diseases of dogs and cats which are not present in the UK, which can be fatal to both humans and animals.

“We can confirm 12 dogs and two cats have been released to Nowzad having completed the necessary treatment process.

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“The remaining animals are being cared for in secure facilities and will be released when their quarantine ends or when they are compliant.”

At the end of August, it was reported that the animals may have to put to be put down if they were found to carrying diseases, in a situation similar to that of Geronimo the alpaca, who tested positive for bovine tuberculosis.

In response to the Defra statement, Mr Farthing said: “The Nowzad charity has always been fully compliant with the regulations as laid out by Defra for the import of dogs from Afghanistan.

“If further testing is needed currently beyond what is normally required for entry to the UK, then our charity will be more than happy for those tests to be carried out by Defra.

“We are happy to report the first batch of 12 dogs and two cats were given the all-clear last week. The remainder will continue with their predetermined quarantine as per Defra regulations for entry to the UK.”

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