After the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl melted in 1986 it lead to the worst nuclear disaster in history. The area has since been considered as inhabitable. That, however doesn’t mean that nothing lives there. Wild animals, dogs, cats and puppies of Chernobyl that managed to survive the disaster stayed, and have since been reproducing. You can find stray animals in many areas of Chernobyl. They can mostly be found near the canteen, and other places where there’s food to eat.
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Around a thousand dogs live in the area, and maybe a few dozen cats, as well. You can see puppies and dogs walking around the site, begging for a human’s touch. Nevertheless, as the documentary Puppies of Chernobyl clearly explains – people advise against petting them. Let’s see why that is.
Why can’t you pet the puppies of Chernobyl?
The laws that are active in the exclusion zone of Chernobyl clearly state, and advise against petting the dogs and puppies of Chernobyl. If you do decide to pet them, you’ll be doing so at your own risk, and might be facing contamination. See, the fact is that these four-legged creatures walk around the site each day and may have a lot of radioactive particles on them. They might even have radioactive particles in their bodies, because of the food they eat every day. Even if they don’t, they surely have radioactive particles on their coat, and around their ears, nose and feet.
How dangerous is it?
Even though they strongly advise against petting the cats, dogs and puppies of Chernobyl, it’s quite hard to resist their big, kind eyes, so some people do give them a scratch on the ear once in a while. You might not expect to find so many pups, such as the cute little ones you can see on the video, but there truly are a lot of animals over there. Sometimes you simply can’t help yourself but extend your arm to them, and pet them on the head. The truth is that they are not hazardous to your well-being right away. Nevertheless, you need to be sure to go wash your hands immediately after petting them, especially if you’re planning on eating afterwards.
What are they doing to help these animals?
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Right now there is a neutering and spaying program that spayed and neutered stray animals in Chernobyl all summer long. They are planning on continuing the program for a few more years in hopes that this will help relieve the stray-animal’s situation a little bit. The local workers were a little skeptical at first. Soon after they realized that the program is set up to help the animals and nothing else, and saw the result the program showed in just a few weeks, their attitude immediately changed for the better.
Each dog that comes in for spaying or neutering is first examined, washed and cleaned up, until their radiation reaches a safe level. The vets and their staff are aware of the possible risks involved with handling the animals. Nevertheless, they continue interacting with them and provide them with the much needed help they definitely deserve.
What does their future hold?
The Clean Futures Fund is working together with the Ukrainian government. They are planning on finding forever homes for all of the neutered and spayed animals. They want to offer them a chance to live out the rest of their lives filled with love and care, and hopefully a lot of petting and belly rubs too!