We need your help to save the Dogs of Chernobyl!
This GoFundMe campaign has been established to help nearly 1,000 stray dogs living at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine and the 30-kilometer exclusion zone that surrounds it. Every dollar counts, WE MEAN IT, each and every $1 donation matters! Even if you can’t make a donation, please consider sharing this campaign with your friends and family. Every share makes a very real difference in the lives of these animals.
The Clean Futures Fund (CFF) is a U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established by Erik Kambarian and Lucas Hixson to support workers and communities affected by industrial accidents and long-term cleanup programs.
CFF has partnered with the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Management Agency in Ukraine to provide medical care for the stray dogs that live in the area. We need your support to hire Ukrainian vets, purchase vaccines, anesthesia, cages, dog food and medical supplies, to set up a temporary hospital to conduct our spay/neuter operations, and to help manage and take care of this abandoned population of animals.
Since 2017, the first year of the Dogs of Chernobyl program, we have treated over 850 stray cats and dogs. In 2018 we were also able to rescue and adopt over 40 puppies. In 2019, we look forward to continuing our efforts to help these abandoned animals.
(Some of the stray dogs of Chernobyl resting in the shade inside of the controlled areas around the crippled Unit 4 reactor which is underneath the new confinement structure in the background.)
Many people think of Chernobyl as a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but there are thousands of workers at the nuclear power plant and hundreds of stray dogs that live in the surrounding areas. These animals are largely the descendants of pets of people who were evacuated after the nuclear disaster in 1986.
(The dogs pictured above live less than 100 yards from the damaged Unit 4 reactor pictured below.)
(An early photo of the Unit 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine after explosions ripped the reactor apart and released radioactive contamination into the environment.)
In the early morning of April 26th, 1986, there was an accident and catastrophic explosion of the number 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in northern Ukraine. Radioactive materials quickly spread into the environment, forcing officials in the former Soviet republic to evacuate over 120,000 people from nearly 200 cities and communities around the power plant. By May, the Soviet military had established a 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the stricken plant.
The displaced were told that they would only be gone a few days. Government officials knew this wasn’t true, but it was the only way to get evacuees to leave in an orderly fashion. Pets were not allowed to be taken, instead they were abandoned - their owners never to return.
After the evacuations were complete, soldiers were dispatched to shoot and kill the abandoned animals. Not all of the animals were culled. The remaining pets, left to the wild, began migrating to areas of the zone where cleanup workers, often called liquidators, worked and stayed during the battle to contain the nuclear catastrophe.
The photo above is one of the oldest photographs we have been able to find of the Dogs of Chernobyl. The photo depicts two young puppies who had already migrated to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant within a few weeks of the disaster.
(Two stray dogs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant scavenging for food in the dumpsters.)
Even today, the descendants of dogs abandoned after the nuclear disaster in 1986 are driven out of isolated areas by wolves and other predators, arriving malnourished in populated areas scattered throughout the zone.
The dogs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant are generally very young (over 90% estimated to be 3-5 years or younger). New litters of puppies are born year round. Many of the puppies born after October every year will not survive the harsh Ukrainian winter without assistance.
(A worker at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant feeds some of the stray dogs near the canteen where workers eat lunch.)
Over the years, workers at Chernobyl and in the surrounding exclusion zone have attempted to care for these homeless animals - even though it is technically illegal and puts them at potential risk. It is not uncommon for workers to feed the animals or tend to one that is injured.
One woman at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant has been buying temporary sterilization shots out of her own meager salary in the spring to try to stem the flood of new puppies every year, but she cannot afford enough shots to make a real difference.
Over the last ten years, a resurgence of tourism into the exclusion zone has increased the amount of human contact and interaction with these animals.
(Two young puppies and their mother greet the workers and visitors to the nuclear power plant.)
While human interaction is good for the animals and for the workers, it also carries considerable risk. The dogs have been exposed to rabies by animals in the exclusion zone, including the packs of wolves that claim the surrounding areas. Ukraine receives its rabies vaccine for humans from Russia, but has not been receiving an adequate supply for nearly 5 years because of the breakdown of relations and the ongoing conflict with Russia in Eastern Ukraine.
There are rules against feeding the stray dogs in the zone, but the workers big hearts prevent them from being able to ignore the plight of the animals. (Would you be able to ignore suffering animals like the puppies pictured above and below?)
The problem with feeding the dogs is that the first thing they want to do after eating, is breed – continuing the proliferation of young puppies in the zone.
Out of desperation and economic restriction, a worker has been assigned to cull the stray dog population around the plant. For the time being, CFF has negotiated a more humane solution to managing the stray animals with our spay, neuter and vaccination program.
We need your help to avoid this unnecessary and inhumane outcome!
DOGS PROGRAM OVERVIEW
In 2016, CFF developed a 5-year program to spay, neuter and vaccinate the stray dogs of Chernobyl. This initiative is designed to reduce the risk of human exposure to rabies from coming into contact with the dogs as well as provide basic vaccinations and medical care for these furry friends.
Every summer through 2021, CFF will dispatch a team of experts (who have donated their time) to Ukraine to partner with 3-5 Ukrainian veterinarians, dog handlers, veterinary technicians and over twenty volunteers to spay, neuter, vaccinate and provide basic medical care for as many of the stray animals in the zone as funding allows. CFF has partnered with the University of South Carolina, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a group of organizations in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Ukraine that are willing to assist in supporting the Chernobyl dogs program in a variety of capacities.
As you can imagine, this is not your typical spay/neuter and vaccination campaign. Special care and handling will be taken during the capture, holding and release of the animals to ensure that all risks are properly managed.
We need your help to purchase the necessary supplies, medicines, to hire qualified vets, and ultimately to provide a better life for the stray dogs of Chernobyl.
How can I follow your updates? We provide regular updates on our social media and have also created the #dogsofChernobyl campaign hashtag.
How many dogs are there?
In April, 2017, we conducted an on-site survey of the stray dog populations at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the surrounding 30-kilometer exclusion zone. Our estimates are that over 225 stray dogs live at the nuclear power plant and over 750 stray dogs live in the exclusion zone.
Where do you find the dogs at the power plant?
You can find stray dogs nearly anywhere on the power plant site, even in the controlled areas.
Why is it necessary to spay, neuter and vaccinate? Life is hard for the dogs of Chernobyl. They don't have adequate supplies of clean food and water. The majority of their diet consists of vegetative matter and berries that they find in nature. When the dogs are fed by workers or by tourists, the first thing they do is go breed and worsen the stray dog problem in the area. It is important to vaccinate them to ensure that they do not pose a potential threat of rabies exposure to humans. After the dogs are spayed, neutered and vaccinated, regular feeding programs and medical care can be provided for these abandoned animals.
What about medical issues?
The local environment is not friendly to the animals and there is no one to care for them. It is not uncommon for a dog to be hit by a vehicle while dashing across a road, or to be caught in a trap meant for wolves, or to suffer some other kind of injury. During our time on-site we have observed many different kinds of injuries including prolapsed wombs, injuries from fighting with other dogs, injuries from being attacked by wolves, broken bones, flesh wounds, etc. We will try to treat as many of these medical issues as possible during our time in the zone. If funding allows we would like to hire a Ukrainian vet to monitor the dogs full-time.
Where will you conduct your activities?
We would not be able to help the dogs of Chernobyl without the full support and cooperation of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant administration and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Management Agency. Both organizations have given us facilities which we will be able to convert into temporary veterinary field hospitals and retention areas for monitoring the dogs after surgery.
Clean Futures (CFF) is a non-profit organization in the United States that is committed to supporting workers and communities affected by industrial accidents. For the last 4 years, CFF co-founders Erik Kambarian and Lucas Hixson have been travelling to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant as part of an international vocational delegation. During their first visit to the zone, they were shocked to discover the large population of stray dogs and puppies that live at the power plant and in the surrounding exclusion zone.
The veterinary program is led by Dr. Jennifer Betz. Dr. Betz, received her degree from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1997. For the last seventeen years she has owned and operated a veterinary clinic in Portland, Oregon. She devotes her spare time to reducing animal suffering through participation in spay/neuter projects at home and abroad.
Dr. Betz has been involved with spay/neuter projects in Fiji, Peru, Belize, Mexico and Hawaii. In addition to regularly participating in HQHV (High Quality High Volume) Spay Neuter clinics,
Dr. Betz acts as a forensic veterinarian for the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team as well as an animal cruelty investigator and teacher.
In times of crisis Dr. Betz has been deployed as a federal employee for the National Disaster Medical System Veterinary Response Team.
Please help us save the #DogsofChernobyl
Even if you can’t make a donation, please consider sharing this campaign with your friends and family. Every share makes a very real difference in the lives of these animals.
Above is a video produced (in Russian) by the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant about the Clean Futures Fund inspection of the stray dog population in April 2017 and the Dogs of Chernobyl program.
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- Francesca Gregorini
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