On April 26, 1986, a power surge sparked an explosion in Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, leading to one of the worst nuclear accidents in world history—the Chernobyl disaster. And in the minds of many, Chernobyl conjures up images of a ghost town devoid of life.
In reality, Chernobyl is still teaming with life, from researchers and cleanup workers to wildlife. Today, Chernobyl even has a bustling tourist industry, where people come to tour the exclusion zone and nearby town, Pripyat.
The Chernobyl animals don’t just include the wildlife within the area. There is actually a large population of dogs that live within the exclusion zone and frequently hang out around the human population.
The Clean Future Fund (CFF), which operates within the Exclusion Zone to care for the Chernobyl canines, explains, “After the evacuation of Pripyat and the Exclusion Zone in the spring of 1986, soldiers of the Soviet Army were dispatch to shoot and kill the animals in Pripyat which had been left behind, but it was impossible to round up and cull all of the animals in the various small villages throughout the Exclusion Zone. These former pets lived in the Exclusion Zone and migrated to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where their descendants remain to this day.”
They explain, “CFF estimates that over 250 stray dogs live around the nuclear power plant, over 225 stray dogs live in Chernobyl City, and hundreds of dogs live at the various security checkpoints and roam throughout the exclusion zone.”
The Ukrainian Government has long had a policy that the animals of Chernobyl, especially the dogs, cannot be rescued or removed from the area due to their potential radiation contamination. Over the years, CFF has worked tirelessly to provide the dogs with veterinary care and to neuter as many dogs as possible to control the population. Those working in and around the Exclusion Zone have also provided the dogs with food and shelter to help them survive the harsh Ukraine winters.
However, they have recently lifted that ban, and CFF was able to rescue 12 puppies. Lucas Hixson, co-founder of CFF, tells Gizmodo, “We have rescued the first puppies; they are now in our adoption shelter going through the quarantine and decontamination process.” He continues, “The goal is 200 dogs, but will likely be more in the long run. My hope is to get 200 dogs rescued and adopted in the next 18 months and then go from there.”
In a translated news story from May 14, 2018, from the State Agency of Ukraine for the Management of the Exclusion Zone website, they explain that the rescued puppies will undergo dosimetric control (to have the radiation removed) and then be taken to Slavutych, where they will be held in quarantine for 45 days.
They also say that CFF has all of the necessary permits to rescue 200 of the Chernobyl dogs, as well as transport the current 12 rescued puppies. They say that the puppies will be headed off to the United States in June.
There is no word on whether how the puppies will be adopted out, but it is exciting to know that the Chernobyl animals are not forgotten and that these puppies are going to get a wonderful second chance at life. You can help the CFF purchase the vaccines, anesthesia and medical supplies they need to spay and neuter over 500 Chernobyl animals by donating to the Dogs of Chernobyl GoFundMe.
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