Dogs of Chernobyl

It’s a common misconception that the Chernobyl Nuclear Power plant is devoid of life–in fact there are over 3,500 people each day who work among over 250 stray dogs that roam the grounds.

These dogs can be found in nearly every area of the Chernobyl site, including controlled, indoor areas. The workers have adopted the dogs in a way, and save scraps of the their own meals to feed them.

The dogs are driven out of the woods to the power plant by packs of wolves and a lack of food to support themselves in the Exclusion Zone.

There is some evidence that some of the Chernobyl dogs are breeding with the wolves that live in the Exclusion Zone.

BACKGROUND

In the spring of 1986, the Unit 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine exploded and spread radioactive materials into the environment.  In response to the disaster, the former Soviet Union established a 30-km exclusion zone around the facility and evacuated over 120,000 people from 189 cities and communities.  The evacuees were not allowed to bring anything that they could not carry.  Pets were abandoned.

This is one of the oldest photos of the dogs of Chernobyl that we have found. This image depicts a worker at Chernobyl holding two small puppies that dates back to a few weeks after the disaster in 1986.

After the evacuation of Pripyat and the Exclusion Zone in the spring of 1986, soldiers of the Soviet Army were dispatched 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, migrated to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where their descendants remain to this day.

For the last four years, Clean Futures Fund Co-Founders Lucas and Erik have traveled to Ukraine as part of a vocational work program at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (ChNPP).  During their time at Chernobyl, they were shocked to discover the large population of stray dogs living around the plant and in the zone.

Overpopulation of dogs in Europe is a well-known problem, there are an estimated 30,000 stray cats and dogs in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev alone, but the Chernobyl dogs are different.  These dogs are the descendants of pets left behind during the hasty evacuation in 1986.  They have been driven out of remote areas in the zone by packs of rabid wolves that attack them.  The Chernobyl dogs are malnourished, have been exposed to rabies by wild predators in the zone, and are in dire need of medical attention.

CFF estimates that over 250 stray dogs live around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, over 225 stray dogs live in Chernobyl City, and hundreds of other dogs live at the various security checkpoints and roam throughout the exclusion zone.

Out of desperation, not desire, the nuclear power plant has hired a worker to catch and kill the dogs, because they don’t have the funds available for any other option, but the worker is refusing to do so at this point.

CFF needs your help to avoid this intolerable and inhumane outcome.

Every year, new puppies are born at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and the workers take care of them during the harsh Ukrainian winter. These dogs are exposed to rabies by the wild animals living in the Exclusion Zone.

Today, the dogs of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant rely on the workers at the station to stay alive.  Some bring the animals inside and give them care if they seem injured or sick – but the workers also risk exposure to rabies by interacting with the dogs.

It is interesting to note that there are next to no mature animals (over 6-8 years old) at the plant, and most of the dogs appear to be under 4-5 years old.

We have developed a 3-year program with our partners to manage the stray dog population in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.  In 2017, the Clean Futures Fund is raising funds to bring veterinarians to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant to administer rabies shots and spay and neuter the animals.

We need your help to purchase vaccines, anesthesia and medical supplies necessary to spay and neuter over 500 animals.  Please donate now, and spread the word to help!

Get active in the project and share this information with your friends by email and social media.  If you have contacts who work with or for animals, reach out and tell them about the Chernobyl Dogs Project!

If anyone would like to send cards, care packages, or private donations for the Chernobyl dogs and the men and women who take care of them, please contact us for more information.