Many people think of Chernobyl as a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but there are thousands of workers at the nuclear power plant every day and nearly 1,000 stray dogs roaming the surrounding areas.
These animals are largely the descendants of pets of people who were evacuated after the nuclear disaster in 1986.
Many viewers of the recent HBO docu-series, Chernobyl, were horrified to learn of the treatment of dogs and other domestic animals left behind during the mass-exodus of the city following the 1986 disaster.
In the early morning of April 26th, 1986, there was an accident and catastrophic explosion of the number 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in northern Ukraine. Radioactive materials quickly spread into the environment, forcing officials in the former Soviet republic to evacuate over 120,000 people from nearly 200 cities and communities around the power plant. By May, the Soviet military had established a 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the stricken plant.
The displaced were told that they would only be gone a few days. Government officials knew this wasn’t true, but it was the only way to get evacuees to leave in an orderly fashion. Pets were not allowed to be taken, instead they were abandoned – their owners never to return.
After the evacuations were complete, soldiers were dispatched to shoot and kill the abandoned animals. Not all of the animals were culled. The remaining pets, left to the wild, began migrating to areas of the zone where cleanup workers, often called liquidators, worked and stayed during the battle to contain the nuclear catastrophe.
Now, 33 years later, the descendants of those left behind roam the exclusion zone, hungry, alone, without medical care, and most having never enjoyed human touch or companionship. But, one organization is hoping to change things for the dogs of Chernobyl.
A GoFundMe campaign has been established to help nearly 1,000 stray dogs living at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine and the 30-kilometer exclusion zone that surrounds it.
The Clean Futures Fund (CFF) is a U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established by Erik Kambarian and Lucas Hixson to support workers and communities affected by industrial accidents and long-term cleanup programs.
CFF has partnered with the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Management Agency in Ukraine to provide medical care for the stray dogs that live in the area. Support is needed to hire Ukrainian vets, purchase vaccines, anesthesia, cages, dog food and medical supplies, to set up a temporary hospital to conduct spay/neuter operations, and to help manage and take care of this abandoned population of animals.
Since 2017, the first year of the Dogs of Chernobyl program, The Clean Futures Fund has treated over 850 stray cats and dogs. In 2018 they were able to rescue and adopt over 40 puppies from the area. In 2019, they look forward to continuing efforts to help these abandoned animals.
To learn more about the dogs of Chernobyl, the incredible work being done to care for the animals currently there, and to stop the proliferation of thousands more homeless dogs and cats, click here.