Thirteen dogs living as strays on the Chernobyl nuclear testing site have found homes in the United States.
An unlikely partnership between the Ukrainian government and international dog advocates has led to the rescue of hundreds of dogs near the site of one of the worst man-made disasters in human history.
And some of the dogs, after being spayed neutered and having their radiation levels detected, have been shipped to the U.S. for adoption.
It was back in 1986 when the Unit 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded and spread radioactive materials into the environment.
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 everything they wanted, meaning many pets were left behind.
Later that year, soldiers of the Soviet Army were dispatched to shoot and kill the animals left behind in Pripyat, but it was impossible to cull all of the animals in the various small villages throughout the exclusion zone. Former pets living in the exclusion zone migrated to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where their descendants remain to this day.
Two or three dog generations later, about 250 dogs remain — the only form of life at the nuclear power plant, not counting the over 3,500 people each day who work there cleaning up and monitoring conditions, according to Clean Futures Fund.
Meghan Mollohan, of Grovetown, Ga., said her husband was sent to Chernobyl for a welding job shortly after the the older of their two dogs passed away, leaving their German shepherd, Nikita, by herself.
There her husband encountered the strays.
“When he went over there, he said there were so many stray dogs everywhere,” Mollohan told WRDW. “He would feed them every day and love on them and he just knew that he wished he could take one of those dogs home.”
One particular shepherd mix, named Yuri, hit it off with him immediately.
“The trainer said he wouldn’t come to a lot of people,” Mollohan says. “Right when my husband got there, he ran right to him. And so, we just kind of knew that he was the one that we would be adopting.”
Yuri was one of 250 puppies — all dsecendants of the dogs left abadoned their after the nuclear disaster — the SPCA International and the Clean Futures Fund have cleared for testing and extraction from the site.
Each dog went through a 45-day quarantine period to make sure they were not contaminated while also being tracked by scientists with radiation-tracking ear tags.
The SPCAI and Clean Futures Fund say the dogs with the lowest possible radiation levels are rescued and sent out to adoption centers.
Mollohan says some of her family members were concerned about potential radiation issues, but she was assured that only dogs that were clear of radiation were being released to adoption centers across the world.
According to CFF, 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.
“We have developed a 3-year program with our partners to manage the stray dog population in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone,” the fund’s website says.
The fund accepts donations to cover the costs of veterinarians, vaccines and medical supplies necessary to spay and neuter over 500 animals.
(Photos: Clean Futures Fund)