When disaster struck the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on 26th April 1986, a 30km exclusion zone was created and 350,000 people were evacuated. The first evacuees were not allowed to bring anything with them- this included their beloved dogs and other pets. The Soviet soldiers overseeing the evacuation process are said to have dragged and kicked howling pets from the buses. Seeing their dogs chasing after these buses is often the last memory that the evacuees have of their pets. Shooting squads were sent in to kill any animals left behind. However, some survive and it is their descendants that currently occupy the area today. It is estimated that 300 stray dogs live in the exclusion zone that surrounds Nuclear reactor number 4.
Life for a stray dog in Chernobyl is harsh. The Ukrainian winters are unforgiving and many die before reaching the age of six. These strays have learnt to seek out human interaction in the hope of food and warmth. They congregate near checkpoints or visitor stops and have become mascots for Chernobyl. Whilst you do have to treat them cautiously as they are strays every dog that approached us was friendly and playful. If you ever visit Chernobyl I would recommend spending a minute showing some kindness and sparing some food for the descendants of the pets who were left behind.
Last Updated on 8 March 2021 by Michael