The Radioactive Dogs of Chernobyl


Tomas Halasz

Ukraine, Chernobyl exclusion zone

Ryann Rollins

In 1986, the local nuclear power plant of Chernobyl, Ukraine, exploded and sent out millions of radioactive particles. This radioactivity covered an astonishing 12,000 acres of land and caused thousands of civilians to evacuate the city, leaving their beloved pets behind. Chernobyl was deemed unsafe to inhabit. However, nearly a thousand domesticated animals were now left behind in the radioactive environment. As a result, these animals (primarily canines) collected radioactive particles in their fur, contaminating them. Interacting with these dogs resulted in a transfer of these particles, thus making them dangerous to humans. Soviet soldiers began mass euthanizing the dogs in an attempt to control the radiation; however, nearly four decades later, the radioactive dogs of Chernobyl still plague the streets of Ukraine. 

The dogs who originally walked the town spent years reproducing, transferring radiation particles, and creating hundreds of tiny radioactive puppies. Now, the city of Chernobyl has been labeled unsafe for children and young adults, therefore its community consists of barely 200 senior citizens, and of course hundreds of radioactive dogs. Fortunately, the dogs who now inhabit Chernobyl are not in any kind of extreme pain or suffering because of the radioactivity. The biggest effect the radiation has on the actual dogs is the possibility of having a deformed litter. However, they do face other non-radiation-related hardships, such as a lack of food, water, and shelter. The people who don’t fear these dogs have worked hard to better the lives of these animals with programs such as TNR (Trap, Neuter/Spay, and Release), or taking in the dogs and washing off the radioactivity and then rehoming them. If these dogs are not cared for and helped, the city of Chernobyl may never be accessible to the public.



Berkhead, S. (2019, October 31). How the Dogs of Chernobyl Found a Happy Ending. The Moscow Times. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, April 4). Decontamination – pets. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from