(CBS13) — Decades after the Chernobyl nuclear explosion in Ukraine, hundreds of abandoned dogs still roam the disaster zone.
Some are now being adopted and brought to the United States.
In 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine exploded, sending radioactive material spewing into the sky. Authorities evacuated everyone within 19 miles, but people were forced to leave their pets behind.
The Soviet government sent in the military to kill the dogs, but some survived.
“There were nearly 1,000 stray dogs in the zone when we started this program, and they’re all descendants of these abandoned pets,” said Lucas Hixson with the Clean Futures Fund.
For the past three years, the U.S. non-profit Clean Futures Fund has traveled to Ukraine to track down the dogs and give them medical care.
“I’m not worried about radioactivity. You turn off the lights they’re not going to glow in the dark. These dogs have literally have a piece of grass with high radiation on them,” said lead veterinary technician Angela Elia.
Vets vaccinate, spay or neuter the animals and give them a good wash before releasing them back into the wild.
But young pups get a new lease on life.
Ohio native Sean Grossarth adopted Natalka last year through the ‘Dogs of Chernobyl’ program.
“She loves everyone and doesn’t understand why people don’t wanna stop and pet her all the time,” said Grossarth. “It’s by far one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.”
The transition from Chernobyl to Columbus has been rough at times, but Natalka has settled into her new life with her American family.
Since the adoption program began last year, 40 puppies have been adopted by American and Canadian families.