A viral video this week sheds light on a heart-rending situation: The radioactive puppies and dogs of Chernobyl.
After the catastrophic 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in what’s now northern Ukraine, many people forced to evacuate the surrounding area left their pets behind, thinking they’d be able to return in a few days. Instead, soldiers were dispatched to shoot the abandoned animals.
But some survived. And hundreds of dogs that now roam the area around Chernobyl are believed to be their descendants.
“Puppies of Chernobyl,” a short documentary uploaded to YouTube by filmmaker Drew Scanlon, shows a series of adorable puppies and dogs in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone — a 1,000-square-mile area around the nuclear plant where access is strictly limited.
Workers at the plant, tourists and some others are allowed in, but only under tight government control. Several hundred people, mostly elderly former residents, also have moved back into their villages over the years, against official orders.
Scanlon says in the video that officials forbade him from petting any of the puppies because of the hazards posed by radioactive particles on their fur. Seeing the little puppies come up to him seeking attention is pretty heartbreaking.
But efforts are underway to get the Chernobyl dogs the care they need.
The Clean Futures Fund — a nonprofit dedicated to helping communities in the aftermath of industrial accidents — is spearheading a five-year plan to spay and neuter the dogs and cats roaming in the area, then set up food and water stations and a veterinary clinic to help care for the animals.
The fund’s plan, which kicked off this summer, involves partnering with Ukrainian veterinarians and other volunteers, as well as organizations in Ukraine, the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.
The dogs suffer from a lack of food and water, as well as predation from wildlife that has flourished in the area’s relative absence of people, Lucas Hixson, a radiation specialist and Clean Futures Fund co-founder, told HuffPost. While the…