HBO and Sky’s Chernobyl has been making waves since its release last month, thanks to its deeply moving and terrifying depiction of the 1986 disaster and its fallout, but one episode in particular really struck a nerve with animal lovers.
Episode four of the highly rated series showed a team of Soviet soldiers who travelled back into the irradiated city of Pripyat to kill any pet dogs left behind by families, in a bid to prevent them from contaminating others.
It’s absolutely devastating, and one of the lesser-known tragedies of the disaster, but 30 years on people are trying to help the dogs of Chernobyl.
Rather astoundingly, it turned out some of the dogs survived and have even interbred with feral wolves in the 1,000 square mile exclusion zone. People visiting the zone have been warned not to pet the animals over fears of radioactive contamination, but now a non-profit group are fighting to help the left behind pooches.
The Clean Futures Fund (CFF) is a US humanitarian aid organisation helping the stray dogs of Chernobyl, rescuing them and finding forever homes.
Most recently, members of the organisation visited Chernobyl on June 3, in partnership with SPCA International. The dogs they rescued are being treated for radiation poisoning, as well as being vaccinated for rabies and being sprayed and neutered. Now, they’re hoping the survivors can be adopted into loving forever homes.
CFF co-founder Lucas Hixson told Vice last year:
The biggest consideration should be given to the fact that these dogs have not had any real socialisation before coming to our rescue shelter.
They don’t understand the concept of a toy. The only things they like to play with are sticks and things to eat. We have developed a special training program for the puppies while they are in the adoption shelter, but they will likely still need a little extra love to reach their full potential.
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#DogsofChernobyl FAQs: How does radiation affect the dogs and cats? The biggest inhibitors of their health and life is lack of food, water, shelter, diseases like rabies, predation from wild animals, and protection from the elements during the harsh Ukranian winters. Their lifespan is so short that the radiation is really not a factor. Most dogs and cats in the #Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are under 3 years old. An animal that is 5 yrs old is considered old, even though it's relatively young for a dog's age. This is why we think the work that we are doing with @spca_international is so important. It's work that couldn't be done with these partnerships, and without the dedication of volunteers like Sarah McDonald and Carol Mefford, pictured here with some puppies that they took care of today. #dogsofinstagram #ukraine #vetsofinstagram #spayandneuter #puppiesofinstagram
Let’s hope these doggos, who have defied the odds to survive, can find forever homes with people who are willing to put in the time and care they need and deserve.
Chernobyl aired each week on Sky Atlantic and HBO. HBO Home Entertainment will digitally release Chernobyl as of June 24.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.