For the first time ever, a group of puppies that were born in Chernobyl, Ukraine, have been removed from the exclusion zone surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant whose reactor exploded in 1986, causing one of the worst nuclear disasters the world has ever seen. As Buzzfeed reports, some of the descendants of dogs that survived the environmental catastrophe have been cleared of radiation and brought to the U.S. and Canada to start new lives.
Until 2018, it was illegal for animals to be removed from the Chernobyl exclusion zone, and it’s still illegal for people to live in Chernobyl City for more than three weeks at a time. When local authorities decided to make an exception for puppies last year, an organization called the Clean Futures Fund launched an adoption program to find new homes for healthy pups.
“You can’t bring anything out of the exclusion zone,” Christine Anderson, who adopted one of the rescued dogs, told CBS Sacramento last December. “These puppies are the first things to ever make it out.” Her 8-month-old Chernobyl pup, named Persik, seems happy and healthy, aside from a few quirky habits that likely stem from trying to survive in a harsh environment.
“She really likes to hide underneath things … and she builds nests,” Anderson says. “She’ll take shoes, take clothes, anything she could find and make a little barrier around herself. I think it makes her feel safe.”
Although some have warned of the dangers of petting the dogs in Chernobyl, Clean Futures Fund co-founder Lucas Hixson says it’s extremely rare to find traces of radiation among the animals. Nonetheless, all of the dogs are tested for radiation, and blood samples are taken as well. In an attempt to reduce the stray dog population, older dogs are spayed and neutered, while puppies are treated and taken to the nearby town of Slavutych to receive training.
More than 40 puppies are eligible for adoption, and over a dozen have already been brought to the U.S. Fourteen puppies were sent to New York. Persik wound up in Northern California. And a pair of siblings found forever homes in Ohio, where a video posted to Instagram shows the two pups being reunited.
In addition to the puppy adoption program, the Clean Futures Fund also continues to raise funds to help spay, neuter, and vaccinate the hundreds of stray dogs in Chernobyl, and you can learn more about their efforts in the video below.