When the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in 1986, the surrounding villages were evacuated and fleeing residents were not allowed to take their pets with them. Those sadly abandoned pets faced a new harsh reality. Soldiers were sent in to shoot the animals and those that evaded the weapons were met with wicked Ukrainian winters and radiation in their fur, all leading to shortened lives.

But through the years many have survived, hardy descendants that learned to bum food off visitors and find reliable shelter. Now, some of those Chernobyl pups are heading for homes in the United States.

Chernobyl puppies The puppies will spend 45 days in quarantine before making the trip to the U.S. (Photo: Lukasz Zawadkzi/Clean Futures Fund)

Ukrainian state officials have announced that the first dozen puppies from the Chenobyl Exclusion Zone will be put up for adoption in the U.S. in June. The puppies will be quarantined for 45 days before they're sent overseas to find new homes.

The strays began to receive veterinary care and attention last year through the help of the Clean Futures Fund, a U.S.-based nonprofit that helps communities affected by industrial accidents. After assessing the situation, the group developed a three-year plan.

The group has set up veterinary stations in the area where they spay and neuter the strays, administer rabies shots, and treat them for injuries and prevalent health conditions such as mange. The dogs are also measured for radiation and given baths for decontamination.

Two Chernobyl puppies snooze in tandem. Two puppies snooze in tandem. (Photo: Lukasz Zawadkzi/Clean Futures Fund)

Those initial steps laid the groundwork for taking the dogs out of that unhealthy environment and setting them on the path for a healthier life.

"We have rescued the first puppies, they are now in our adoption shelter going through the quarantine and decontamination process," Lucas Hixson, co-founder of the Clean Futures Fund, told Gizmodo. "The goal is 200 dogs, but will likely be more in the long run. My hope is to get 200 dogs rescued and adopted in the next 18 months and then go from there."

A Chernobyl puppy gets a bath A Chernobyl puppy gets a bath. (Photo: Clean Futures Fund)

If social media posts are any indication, the U.S.-bound puppies should have no trouble finding homes. If you are interested in adopting one of these pups, contact adoptions@cleanfutures.org. If you would like to donate to the Clean Future Fund's ongoing work to save dogs in Chernobyl, check out their fundraising effort on GoFundMe.

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.