Tag Archives: strays

Dogs of Chernobyl finally getting homes


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.

Clean-Futures-Fund-Chernobyl-4ccb38f8-989f-47b3-b773-38e73f105a19-PCTwo 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.

Clean-Futures-Fund-Chernobyl-DSC_0845-PC“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)

Strays swept up before World Cup in Russia

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Animal rights activists fear history will will repeat itself in Russia as cities hosting the World Cup attempt to purge their streets of stray dogs — just as Sochi did prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Earlier this year, Russia’s deputy prime minister, Vitaly Mutko, met with animal rights activist to discuss their fears that stray dogs would be exterminated ahead of the event. He pledged to stop all cruelty, and said new shelters for strays would be built.

But activists say the effort by cities to put their best face forward during the event is continuing to result in culls in which the lives of strays are ended via methods less than humane.

“If you put it in plain Russian, they said ‘sod off, we’re going to carry on killing’,” Yekaterina Dmitriyeva, the head of the Foundation for the Protection of Urban Animals, told The Guardian.

The Guardian reported that there are about two million strays in Russia’s 11 World Cup host cities and it has been estimated that local authorities will spend up to £119 million on catching, caging, sterilizing and euthanizing animals this year.

Activists say they fear the private companies the government contracts with to carry out the sweeps will resort to shooting and poisoning strays — both of which were reported in the weeks leading up to the Olympics.

In protest, some Olympic athletes adopted Sochi dogs and took them back to their respective countries.

In addition, local animal lovers opened makeshift shelters to try and house all the collected strays and help them avoid being euthanized.

In many Russian cities, large numbers of strays peacefully co-exist with human populations, living off their handouts and even riding the subways.

“Russia’s street dogs are perhaps more lovable than most. They have drawn admiration for their intelligence and resilience,” Chas Newkey-Burden, UK author and journalist, wrote in a commentary piece in this week’s Guardian.

“Many of them commute into the cities each morning on the trains. They know to get on the train’s front or back carriage for the least crowded journey, and they know where to get off for the best food. When they beg for food as a pack, they move their youngest and cutest member to the front, knowing this will melt the hearts of passers-by. On busy streets, they’ve even learned to obey traffic lights and cross when it’s safe, trotting alongside pedestrians.

“These are the sweet, abandoned creatures who are being exterminated in the name of the beautiful game … Lives silently snuffed out because they don’t fit the image the authorities want to present.”

Officials say their focus is to move dogs into shelters. But those are so crowed that euthanasia becomes the easiest option.

Russian parliament member Vladimir Burmatov recently visited a shelter in Yekaterinburg and discovered a “very painful” scene, with “malnourished dogs and conditions that you couldn’t even call satisfactory.”

The shelter is run by a rubbish collection and disposal firm.

Newkey-Burden urged soccer stars to follow the example of Olympic athletes who went home with dogs from Sochi.

“In this money-spinning game, the influence of these superstars is immense. Here’s their chance to show they really love dogs.”

(Photo: From The Telegraph)

Dogs help heal wounds in war-torn Uganda


Eleven years after a civil war in Uganda, many are still coping with the scars it left — inside and out — and some are finding that a dog can help them do that.

That was the case with Francis Okello Oloya, who in 2015 started The Comfort Dog Project to help people in Gulu town, especially those who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.

At age 12, Okello was blinded by a bomb blast as he worked in the family garden. At a boarding school for the blind, Okello found it difficult to find the toilet at night.

“I had to navigate my way from the sleeping quarter to latrine and that was not easy,” he told the Voice of America. “And these dogs came to know that I needed help. And they began the practice of helping me from the sleeping quarters to the latrine.”

Now 29, he’s in charge of a program that matches street dogs with war’s victims, providing comfort to those victims, homes for those street mutts, and adding to a growing recognition in Uganda of what dogs are capable of.

Traditionally, dogs have mainly been used for hunting in Uganda, or for security.

The Comfort Dog Project is an offshoot of Big Fix Uganda, a nonprofit working to improve the lives of dogs and people in the impoverished and war-torn country.

As explained on the Comfort Dogs website, dogs in need of homes are rehabilitated by a team of trainers, temperament tested and spayed/neutered. They are then placed with war trauma survivors who agree to care for the dog for its lifetime and go through a week of training.

uganda2After graduating, the dog-guardian teams become project ambassadors — visiting villages and schools to
educate others about the importance of being kind to animals, teach them to use positive reinforcement training techniques and “serve as testimony of the healing power of human-dog bonds.”

In the aftermath of the civil war in Uganda, tens of thousands of people still struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health practitioners estimate that seven in 10 people in Northern Uganda were traumatically affected.

Philda Akum, 35, is one of the 29 beneficiaries of the project, Voice of America reports.

In 1997, she and her four brothers were abducted by those rebelling against the government and taken to Sudan.

One brother was captured and killed, Akum says. Another brother was selected to go to the battlefront and was fatally shot. Two days later, her youngest brother contracted cholera and died.

She returned home and joined group therapy, which is what led her to be assigned a dog.

The Big Fix operates the only veterinary hospital in northern Uganda and works to achieve a sustainable population of dogs and cats and control the spread of rabies and other diseases.

(Photo: Francis Okello Oloya, founder of The Comfort Dog Project, with Binongo; Philda Akum, a former war victim, with her dog; by H. Athumani, Voice of America)

What’s turning dogs blue in Mumbai?

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The Mumbai Blue Dogs may sound like a minor league baseball team, but they are real dogs who, thanks to chemicals dumped in a river in India, are really turning blue.

“Handfuls” of blue dogs — all strays — are appearing on the streets of Mumbai, local animal advocates report.

While we can’t vouch for how authentic these photos are, or if they’ve been doctored, we can confirm that the news is real.

Jayavant Hajare, an officer with the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board told the Hindustan Times that five to six dogs entered an area along the Kasadi River that was cordoned off to the public and emerged with a blue cast to their fur.

Industrial waste is regularly dumped into the river in Mumbai, whose waters have long been deemed unfit for human consumption, but the latest surge in blue dog sightings has prompted animal advocates to urge the government to take action against companies.

The pollution control board says it is investigating.

“Allowing the discharge of dye into any water body is illegal. We will take action against the polluters as they are destroying the environment,” a spokesman said.

The spokesman said one company, which uses a blue dye to make laundry detergent, has been given seven days notice to cease dumping the pollutant into the river.

Studies quoted in local newspapers show pollution levels in the area — home to nearly a thousand pharmaceutical, food and engineering factories — have risen to 13 times the “safe limit.”

Last week, animal advocates officers took pictures of stray dogs who had turned blue and forwarded them to the pollution control board.

bluedog3(News reports don’t indicate the original source of the photo above, or the one at left, so it’s not clear if they are photos supplied by the animal protection group. At least one news organization describe the photo at top as a “representational image.”)

“It was shocking to see how the dog’s white fur had turned completely blue,” said Arati Chauhan, with the animal protection group. “We have spotted almost five such dogs here and have asked the pollution control board to act against such industries.”

“We have only spotted blue dogs so far. We do not know if birds, reptiles and other creatures are affected or if they have even died owing to the dye discharged into the air,” said Chauhan.

A flurry of news reports has called attention to the blue dogs in recent days, but they are not a new phenomenon.

Here’s a photo that appeared in a 2013 entry on this travel blog. It was taken on what’s known as Blue Dog Street.

image00018-blue-dog

Dumping their dogs when they depart Dubai

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The sort of people who go to live and work in Dubai are typically not seeking a forever home.

They’re generally not long-range planners; they’re more like get-rich-quick-ers and what’s in it for me-ers.

Given that, it’s not surprising that Dubai — a city where 90 percent of the population comes from somewhere else, and most of them move on after a few years, and many of them often leave their pets behind — there’s a growing homeless dog problem.

“I believe a lot of people just think, ‘I’m going to be in Dubai for three years so let’s get a dog for three years,'” Fiona Myers-Watson, a volunteer at the Stray Dogs Centre, told The Guardian.

“You see people coming here and buying into the lifestyle,” she added. “You get a nice villa that you’d never be able to afford at home, get a Porsche on credit because the bank will easily give you a loan, spend AED 600 on brunch every Friday, and get a cute little dog to go with it all.”

dubai2Despite the financial prosperity they’re enjoying, and the riches they may depart with, many of them don’t see fit to bring their dog along when they leave.

Some of these abandoned dogs end up in the Stray Dogs Centre, less than an hour’s drive from Dubai’s pristine gated communities.

The rudimentary shelter operates at maximum capacity, with 123 dogs, about a quarter of which are believed to be abandoned pets.

It’s not unusual, Myers-Watson said, for a dog to simply be left in the home being vacated, such as one left last year in a villa in Jumeriah Islands, where rentals cost about AED 250,000 a year.

As summer approaches, Dubai’s animal shelters brace for a seasonal surge in dumped pets.

“Summer is our worst period because there’s a mass exodus of expats,” said Alister Milne, manager of K9 Friends, the United Arab Emirate’s longest-established dog shelter. The rate of abandoned dogs doubles or even triples most summers.

Mahin Bahrami, founder of the Middle East Animal Foundation, estimates that at least 40 percent of Dubai’s dumped dogs, cats and small pets are the result of owners leaving the country.

“The expats here often don’t think or plan ahead,” she said. “It’s just about what they want right now: ‘I want a cat right now, and then we’ll see.'”

The Guardian reports that unwanted cats, dogs, rabbits and birds are often left to fend for themselves, locked in empty houses, dumped on the street, or driven out into the desert.

The Dubai government has taken steps to encourage expats to bring their pets with them or find them new homes when they relocate.

Dubai has effectively eradicated rabies, and pets can be exported to most countries, including the UK and the US without a lengthy quarantine.

(Photos by Hannah Bass / The Guardian)

Bachelor party goes terribly, terribly … right

bachelorparty

When eight men gather in a cabin in the woods for a bachelor party, you can expect some memories are going to be made — the kind they will share, or hide, for the rest of their lives.

For groom-to-be Mitchel Craddock and his friends from Michigan, there was no choice but to share them, for they ended up bringing home the female who showed up at their cabin door — and her seven pups.

The mother dog showed up at their door one morning as they were making breakfast, drawn most likely by the scent of frying bacon.

She wouldn’t come through the open door, so they brought her a plate of breakfast leftovers, after which she became less timid and let them pet her.

“It took a few minutes for her to gain our trust but from then on she was our best friend,” Craddock said.

It was then they noticed that, judging from the size of her nipples, she appeared to recently have had some babies.

denScouting the area around the cabin, they found, just down the road, a den containing her seven puppies.

“We could hear them whimpering,” Alex Manchester. “Mama showed up and was actually helping us get the dogs out. One by one we grabbed them and handed them out.”

They brought the puppies — about five months old and in good health — back to the cabin, bathed them and started pondering what to do with them.

“Once we got the puppies out of the hole, we knew we couldn’t just leave them, so we started figuring out where they would go,” said Craddock.

He already owned a chocolate Lab, but when he called his wife-to-be she insisted they take a pup for their new household.

His grandparents volunteered to take Little Orphan Annie, the name they gave the mother dog, into their family — along with another one of the puppies, according to the Nashville Tennessean.

cabinAnd the rest of pups were taken home by the other partygoers, all of who’d gone to Tennessee to do some four-wheeling and bid farewell to their buddy’s bachelorhood.

“You think of a bachelor party, and that’s the last thing you think of,” said Craddock. “Eight guys go down to go four wheeling and come back with eight dogs.”

Craddock, 23, and his bride, Kristen Olson, also 23, were married on Oct. 8, after a rehearsal dinner the night before that all the dogs attended.

“They were all playing together and glad to see each other,” Craddock said. “I’m sure they’ll be life-long buddies. Just like all of us.”

(At top, the party boys and their pups after they returned from the trip; lower, the den the pups were found in; and one of the pups getting comfortable at the cabin; by Bryan Bennett)

When one lost soul bumps into another

Two lost souls coming together isn’t exactly a new movie theme, but it still works, especially when it has a twist like this one.

“A Stray” is about a young man whose refugee family fled Somalia and relocated in Minneapolis. He becomes sort of a double stray when his family kicks him out after he gets in some trouble.

At a mosque, Adan finds shelter. He gets a job, delivering food, and seems to be pulling his life together when his delivery vehicle strikes a dog.

Adan, at the urging of a bystander, hesitantly loads the small white mutt in the car and takes him to a vet, who pronounces the dog OK. It is then that Adan learns he must take the dog with him.

That’s a problem because, on top of being homeless, Adan is Muslim. Under Muslim law, dogs are considered dirty. Many practicing Muslims, like Adan’s family, forbid them in the home. When he arrives back at the mosque with the dog, he’s told to leave.

What happens next — when a man raised to have nothing to do with dogs ends up with a stray, when his God and his Dog are seemingly irreconcilable forces — makes for a thought-provoking and magical movie.

It premiered earlier this year at the South By Southwest (SXWS) Film Festival, and had several screenings last weekend, introduced by writer-director Musa Syeed, at the Film Society of Minneapolis and St Paul.

The human star of the movie is actor Barkhad Abdirahman, a Somali refugee who lives in Minneapolis.

Director Syeed, in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, said he was intrigued by the idea of combining the archetypal American/Western man-and-dog story with Muslim sensitivities towards dogs.

“What was interesting to me about a Muslim kid and a dog was that these are two entities that seemingly are not able to reconcile, or that are so different,” he said. “And I think that’s the way that maybe a lot of people see, you know, Muslims in America … there is some inherent tension or something like that.”

He said he hopes that the story of a man and his forbidden dog shows that there is room for compassion, understanding and a connection.