Meet The Abandoned Dogs Living In Chernobyl

– Most people think of Chernobyl as some post-apocalyptic wasteland, best known as the site of one of the world's worst nuclear explosions. But it's not. It's still a home to
humans and by extension, a home to these dogs. This is what it's like to run
a dog rescue in Chernobyl, a region filled with
history and wagging tails. (gentle music) In 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded in Ukraine, which
was then part of USSR. Over 350,000 people
were forced to evacuate after the explosion. People had to leave behind
all of their belongings, including their pets. The abandoned dogs were left
behind to fend for themselves in harsh conditions. Then the Soviet military sent soldiers into the Exclusion Zone to
kill the abandoned animals, fearful that they would
follow their owners. In the prize-winning
book, Voices of Chernobyl, one soldier describes
burying dogs in mass graves. But these dogs managed
to survive by learning to avoid people. And 32 years later, some of these puppies are the descendants of those
abandoned pets left behind. Hi, so right now, we're in Slavutych. This is a city that
was built 32 years ago, and the idea was to unite all the nations that were affected by Chernobyl, and it was built for Chernobyl workers. Slavutych is not in the Exclusion Zone. And to get to where the
nuclear plant and the dogs are, we have to take the train
that goes through Belarus, and into the radioactive area. The Exclusion Zone is the radioactive area affected by the explosion and
unsafe for humans to live in. Besides the rundown buildings and the old abandoned spaces, there's a lot of dogs here, a lot. And the stray dogs know that
this is their playground. Many of the workers around the power plant unofficially adopted these animals and try to feed them and help
them when they're injured. The Clean Futures Fund
was created to help areas affected by nuclear catastrophes recover. And Chernobyl is their first stop. – We have a lot of cute
puppies on our hands. We are doing a rescue program to try and find new homes
for abandoned stray dogs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Life is very difficult for them here. They don't have access to clean water, they don't have access to shelter to protect them from the elements. There's a lot of predation that happens, there's industrial activities. It's very rare to see a
dog over four years of age, and that's a testament to how harsh those living conditions are. But then there's also the
component that you have people working in this environment that also need to be kept safe. These dogs are exposed
to diseases in the Zone, parasites and worms. And so, from the perspective
of our organization, we wanna be able to
protect this relationship between the workers and the dogs, and to do that, they must
be medically treated. And so, without our interaction, their already too short lives, I think, would be shortened even more. (gentle music) – Hi, are you from the shelter? Yeah.
(puppy squeaking) So these are the new puppies
that everybody brought in. Since starting the
foundation, they've helped capture and treat over 850 cats and dogs. In this year, over 40
puppies were adopted. We joined the dog capture team who were scouting Chernobyl city for pups that haven't been taken care of yet. (dog barking) First, the team maps areas
where they think dogs could be. Then they lure dogs
with treats and hotdogs. If a dog approaches, it means
the pup can just be lifted up and transported to the hospital. – I am the happiest, this
is where I'm the happiest, with the dog. Yes. (people chattering) Yeah, I think he's inside. (people chattering) – You're just used to improvising. Sometimes, if they're not high enough, you go get some bricks from outside, put it under the table,
you know, to lift it up. Just do wha, like this is,
makes a great IV stand. And so, I don't know what it
is, a coatrack or something. I'm not sure what it is. But we just go around, and
we're like, oh, that looks good. I'll use that, so. – [Jane] By some estimates, in a year, a dog can have up to 17 puppies, and the chance of survival is low. – And each one, if it does grow up, it has a potential for creating 64 dogs in its lifetime, at least. And so, yeah, if you can
stop one dog, spay one dog, you can prevent at least 64 unwanted dogs of running around, so, yeah. – [Jane] It's been reported widely that the dogs are radioactive. But that's not entirely accurate. Only a few of the dogs
have radiation on them, and most don't live long enough for it to have longterm effects. (speaking foreign language) Whether they are radioactive just depends on whether they accidentally sat or ran through something contaminated, like a bush, for example. (gentle music) If there is external contamination, it can be shaved off or even
just washed off with soap. (speaking foreign language) After the procedures are done, most of the dogs are released
back where they're found. Some are adopted by volunteers, and the puppies are sent to
the horse stables in Slavutych, where they will be trained, fed, and then sent to new owners. (dogs barking) With the help of SPCA International, this was the first ever
year that these puppies are up for adoption. While they wait for their new homes, they're temporarily cared
for by Natalia Melnichuk. They go on walks, learn commands, and play with horses in the stables. They're also hella cute. (gentle music) Chernobyl is a hauntingly beautiful place and a reminder about the destruction that can come from human
hands, even accidentally. It's also evidence of how quickly nature takes over places
where people used to be. (gentle music) But despite the catastrophe 32 years ago people who live in
Chernobyl are resilient, and so are the dogs who hang around them. Research shows dogs, like humans, can pass trauma to their offspring. In Chernobyl, the past is
evident and acknowledged, but it doesn't keep those who
have gone through the tragedy from looking towards the future. (gentle music)

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