The stray dogs of Chernobyl

Os Bichos


In the foreclosure zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine, created after the 1986 crash, live between 900 and 1,000 stray dogs, which survive in very difficult conditions. They are descendants of animals left behind by the townspeople evacuated when the plant exploded and they were forced to leave everything behind, including their dogs and cats.

Of these nearly 1,000 dogs, about 250 live in the nuclear power plant itself. They have been fed by the 3,500 people who work there every day and who shelter them during the icy winter, but this support is not enough. "These workers take care of dogs the best they can," Lucas Hixson, co-founder of the Clean Futures Fund , an American association created in 2016 that supports people affected by industrial accidents , said in an e-mail interview with the newspaper Os Bichos . .

When, in 2013, Lucas and Erik Kambarian (the other co-founder) entered the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, they were shocked to get in touch with the dogs that live there. They were malnourished animals, exposed to rabies by predators and in need of urgent medical-veterinary care. Many dogs tried to look for food in the surrounding woods, but they were driven out by the packs, although there is evidence that they are mating with the wolves .

Together with the International Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCAI), in 2017 began a five-year program to recover and care for these dogs and cats. "We sterilize, vaccinate, rescue and adopt these abandoned animals to give them the best possible future," explains Lucas Hixson.

Adoption Campaign

On 26 April 1986, a technical problem in reactor No. 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant caused the release of a radioactive cloud. Following the accident, the authorities of the then Soviet Union (to which Chernobyl belonged) established an area of exclusion of about 30 kilometers around that industrial unit. Nearly 190 cities, in which more than 120,000 people lived, were evacuated.

Following the accident, soldiers from the Soviet army were sent to the city of Prípiat to kill all the animals left behind because they were contaminated by nuclear radiation and because of the risk of leaving the exclusion zone. However, it was impossible to shoot them all. The dogs and cats that are still there today are his descendants.

Lucas Hixson describes these dogs as "very smart and healthy and in need of love". This year the Clean Futures Fund and SPCAI were allowed to promote adoption campaigns, but only dogs up to one year old. At the moment, there are 15 puppies for adoption. They are not contaminated, are castrated, vaccinated and dewormed. Before they go to their new homes, in Ukraine or anywhere else in the world, they will have a minimum of 30 days of quarantine.

Volunteers need in Chernobyl

As for cats, the same official says that "there are not as many as the dogs in the exclusion zone" since felines are more easily hunted by predators living in the region (such as wolves and bears) and do not support as well the harsh winters of Chernobyl.

The work that the Clean Futures Fund and the SPCAI are developing with Chernobyl dogs is fully guaranteed by volunteers of various nationalities. Since the program was launched in September, a campaign to collect cash or goods donations and a call for more volunteers to join the project is ongoing.

In the exclusion zone, three medical-veterinary clinics were set up, one of which is inside the nuclear power plant.