A Boston-based international animal-welfare group says it is sending a veterinary team to Ukraine to treat dogs near the site of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
The Four Paws group said on August 20 that hundreds of descendants of abandoned dogs in the Chernobyl area are wandering in and around the destroyed reactor and many live in areas with radioactive contamination, including in the ghost city of Prypyat.
The veterinarians will join a group of other experts already in the region to provide rabies vaccinations, medical treatment, and neutering services to dogs living within the so-called "exclusion zone."
“Due to wild animals who also live within the exclusion zone, the stray dogs are often infected with rabies, posing a risk to people who work at the plant,” the group said.
The dogs survived despite what was called “open season,” when soldiers were allowed to hunt the animals after the nuclear disaster, the group said.
“Originally, the dogs retreated to the surrounding woods after the exclusion zone was established, but packs of wolves and food scarcity forced them back to the abandoned city and toward the still-active nuclear plant," said Julie Sanders, Four Paws international director of companion animals.
"There, the workers began to feed the dogs and they have stayed ever since,” she said.
The explosion and fire at the Chernobyl plant on April 26, 1986, was the world's worst civilian nuclear accident and has left radioactivity levels high in areas around the plant.
Work has been under way since 2010 to build a massive shelter over the damaged reactor and seal in about 200 tons of uranium thought to be still there.