(Photo Credit: cleanfutures.org)

In April 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in Pripyat, Ukraine. More than 120,000 people fled from their homes and families had no choice but to leave their pets behind. While soldiers from the Soviet army were tasked to kill the abandoned animals, some survived. The remaining 900 stray dogs that currently live in the exclusion zone are believed to be their descendants.

Being exposed to the toxic environment for so many years, these pups have radioactive particles on their fur and inside their bodies. Not only that, they are malnourished, suffer from a variety of illnesses and are severely deprived of human contact—the laws governing the exclusion zone around Chernobyl strongly advise people to avoid feeding or touching the dogs due to the risk of contamination. Plus, the dogs are also at risk of contracting rabies as they are exposed to wildlife.

After three decades, an initiative titled Dogs of Chernobyl was set up by Clean Futures Fund (CFF) to provide medical care to these furry pooches. Dedicated individuals from all around the world—ranging from volunteers, veterinarians, dog handlers, veterinary technicians to radiation experts—are working together with CFF and Four Paws, an animal welfare organisation, to carry out this three-year plan.

Pooches that live at the nuclear power plant mostly interact with the workers, who feed and care for them since they were puppies, but this can easily put the workers at risk of being contaminated. Thus, a team of veterinarians will be administering rabies and vaccines shots, as well as performing sterilisation procedures on these pooches to control the population of dogs in the area. Radiation experts will also be conducting checks on them to study their radiation levels, while some have special collars that are equipped with radiation sensors and GPS receivers to track down the radiation levels across the area. The volunteers have set up a makeshift veterinary clinic inside the exclusion zone to conduct these procedures.

CCF aims to find out the radiation present in these pooches and the discovery could open up possibilities for Ukrainian officials to allow the approved dogs to leave the exclusion zone and be adopted. The project aims to raise funds for the purchase of vaccines, anaesthesia, and medical supplies to help these dogs in Chernobyl.

If you’ll like to donate or find out more about the Dogs of Chernobyl initiative, you can do so here.