The effects of the Chernobyl disaster still linger, and for the dogs affected by the radioactive fallout, life could get much worse.
After the nuclear power plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, exploded in 1986, the radiation it sent out was measured at 400 times more potent than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II. Much of the wildlife has since returned to the Chernobyl exclusion zone, including the gray wolf, raccoon dog, Eurasian boar, and red fox.
Dogs are growing in numbers, too—feral dogs, descendants of those who belonged to the more than 120,000 people evacuated from the disaster. Soldiers were once sent to kill their ancestors, but some survived and began reproducing.
Nearly 1,000 dogs and a tenth as many cats are estimated to live by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant today, the Earth Site estimates, with 200 more born every year. Food from workers is sometimes the only food the dogs get, and many contract rabies from the animals in the area.
Making the situation worse for everyone involved, there is a shortage of human rabies vaccine in the Ukraine.
CNN reported that the disaster sent a cloud of radioactive fallout over huge swathes of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, which affected the health of many in those countries. A majority of the fallout blew into Belarus, according to UNICEF, and 20 percent of the children there suffered from disabilities and chronic illness after 1986. A lack of iodine in the diets of those in the contaminated region has also made them more susceptible to thyroid cancer and iodine deficiency disorders.
Current efforts to contain the radioactivity still emanating from the Chernobyl reactor include placing a massive and painstakingly-crafted arch over the site. Workers are building this 32,000-ton arch near the reactor so it can be be moved into place in 2017. Until then, work crews must be vigilant and rely on concrete slabs to shield them from the radiation.
The Ukranian government isn’t in a position to help the forgotten dogs of Chernobyl, while the power plant’s response to the growing dog population has been to hire someone to catch and kill the animals. According to the Clean Futures Fund, the employee has refused to carry out those duties any longer, but the government is still pushing for the dogs to be culled.
The CFF has developed a 3-year program to manage the stray dog population in the Chernobyl exclusion zone through vaccinations and trap-neuter-release methods.The organization is hoping to bring veterinarians to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and keep one on-site permanently.
With your help, the CFF is able to purchase vaccines and spay/neuter supplies, hire Ukrainian vets, set up field veterinary hospitals, establish contamination control stations, and purchase dog food. Click the link below to learn more.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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