In the heat of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 1986, thousands of panicked people fled the nearby area, leaving behind hundreds of pets. Even to this day, the offspring of these radioactive dogs still happily roam the streets of this nuclear ghost town, forming their own ragtag community, free from any human contact.
Now, a new initiative is looking to rehome a gang of these "fallout pups" in the US. The ominous-sounding State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management recently announced that 12 dogs have been rescued from the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in the hopes of sending them to families in the US. They will first be monitored in the city of Slavutych in a 45-day quarantine to make sure they are healthy, safe, and free of any superpowers.
You're no doubt wondering how you can get on the waitlist for these puppies, but there's no official word yet on where the dogs will be put up for adoption.
Chernobyl and the nearby town of Pripyat remain embedded in a 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) exclusion zone, where it’s believed around 300 stray dogs live to this day. A handful of these inhabitants have previously been fortunate enough to fall into the care of Clean Futures Fund (CFF), a project dedicated to spaying, neutering, vaccinating, and providing medical care for the stray dogs of Chernobyl. Many of the dogs have been fitted with electronic tags and radiation-monitoring collars so the researchers can work with the local government to understand the radioactive exposure levels in the area.
Speaking to IFLScience last year, Lucas Hixson, co-found of CFF, said: “We've been out here for the past three and a half weeks, and we've already spayed, neutered, and vaccinated over 300 dogs and cats.
“We’re also doing cats as well. If it’s got ovaries or testicles, we’re willing to spay and neuter it!”
In spite of the lingering radiation, the wildlife of Chernobyl has actually been doing remarkably well. Numbers of deer and wild boar are comparable to those outside the exclusion zone, while the density of wolves is around seven times higher in Chernobyl than in the surrounding area.
That said, living here comes with its own risks. A 2016 study found that voles living in the area have unusually high levels of cataracts, a condition that causes clouding of the eye's lens, most likely as a direct result of radiation.
So, while living in the absence of humans certainly has its perks, these dozen dogs will undoubtedly be happy to start a new life in the US.