"Just so there's no confusion— the story of the liquidators is real. It happened," one of Chernobyl's creator's tweeted after Monday's episode
CHORNOBYL, UKRAINE - AUGUST 18: Stray dogs hang out near an abandoned, partially-completed cooling tower at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on August 18, 2017 near Chornobyl, Ukraine. An estimated 900 stray dogs live in the exclusion zone, many of them likely the descendants of dogs left behind following the mass evacuation of residents in the aftermath of the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Volunteers, including veterinarians and radiation experts from around the world, are participating in an initiative called The Dogs of Chernobyl, launched by the non-profit Clean Futures Fund. Participants capture the dogs, study their radiation exposure, vaccinate them against parasites and diseases including rabies, tag the dogs and release them again into the exclusion zone. Some dogs are also being outfitted with special collars equipped with radiation sensors and GPS receivers in order to map radiation levels across the zone. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

HBO’s new series Chernobyl is attracting viewers for its fascinating, bleak look at the 1986 nuclear reactor failure at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near the Soviet Union city of Pripyat — now a Ukrainian ghost town near the Ukraine-Belarus border.

For some dog lovers things got too bleak on Monday’s episode of the show, which showed workers known as “liquidators” shooting dogs left behind at the exclusion site surrounding the power plant to prevent the spread of radiation contamination.

Likely figuring some might have thought he played up this tragic scene for more drama, one of Chernobyl‘s creators, Craig Mazin, addressed the show’s dog deaths on Twitter on the same day the episode aired.

“I know that was hard. Just so there’s no confusion— the story of the liquidators is real. It happened. And we actually toned it down from the full story,” Mazin tweeted on May 27. “War leaves all kinds of scars. These were the things men were ordered to do.”

SPCA International, an animal welfare organization working to help the stray dogs living near Chernobyl today, backed up Mazin’s claims, adding that many evacuees believed they would be reunited with the pets they were forced to leave behind, pets that were later exterminated by liquidators.

“When thousands of people were forced to evacuate Chernobyl in 1986, they were allowed to take only what they could carry. They were told they would be home soon, so most people left their pets behind with a little extra food and water. Unfortunately, these families were never allowed to return for their beloved cats and dogs,” SPCA International writes on their site.

According to the organization, “Some dogs chased after their owners to follow them onto evacuation buses, but soldiers pushed them away. Dog owners also reportedly left notes on their doors, begging the government to spare their pets’ lives, but that didn’t stop officials from trying to kill as many of the remaining animals as possible. In the years since, however, the descendants of these dogs have bred and multiplied.”

SPCA International is now caring for the modern day descendants of the canines and cats that survived Chernobyl and the liquidators. Once relegated to a difficult life of health issues and sparse resources, these animals now receive food, medical care, vaccines, and sterilizations thanks to SPCA International and their partner the Clean Futures Fund.

Through this partnership, Chernobyl got its first bit of good news in years.

“Clean Futures Fund worked diligently to test radiation levels of these animals. They found that the majority of animals don’t pose a radiation threat to humans. Thanks to these very low radiation levels, Clean Futures Fund and SPCA International worked with the Ukrainian government to pave the way for 15 puppies to be removed from the Nuclear Exclusion Zone,” SPCA International shared on May 29.

In 2018, the 15 puppies — the first animals or objects to be allowed to leave the Nuclear Exclusion Zone since its creation — were placed in loving forever homes in the United States, a “groundbreaking” success for the pets of Chernobyl.