If you'd love to spend time with animals-in-need, actively helping them in a sustainable and cruelty-free way, the Dogs of Chernobyl programme in Ukraine is right up your street.

A white dog sits in front of a wire fence in the abandoned city of Pripyat
Dogs of Chernobyl programme offers visitors the chance to contribute in a positive way while visiting the exclusion zone © Sergiy Romanyuk / Getty Images

When residents of Pripyat fled the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant they were forced to abandon their pets. Soon after soldiers were called in to exterminate the animals to prevent the spread of radiation, even though some locals had pinned heartbreaking notes to doors begging soldiers to spare their dogs. Thankfully many survived, despite high levels of radiation in their fur, the harsh Ukrainian winters and scarcity of food. The offspring of these brave animals still live in the exclusion zone and receive veterinary care from the Dogs of Chernobyl programme.

A black puppy in a field in Chernobyl
The dogs are always happy with some extra attention © Dogs of Chernobyl/Airbnb

Now you can assist with the programme through Airbnb's Animal Experiences, approved by the World Animal Protection organisation. It's a social impact project which gives you the chance to visit the 30-mile exclusion zone, while contributing in a positive way as a volunteer for a day. According to organisers, the dogs "love being fed, cared for, and meeting people from around the world who want to give them some extra attention."

A dog stands on his hind legs
The dogs of Chernobyl love meeting tourists © fotokon / Getty Imges

The Dogs of Chernobyl programme has treated more than 1500 animals in the last three years. It operates shelters and clinics in Pripyat and spays, neuters, and vaccinates dogs to keep the population at a manageable size. The programme is operated by Clean Futures Fund, a US non-proft which also manages human health programs for Chernobyl Liquidators, current Chernobyl workers and sick and disabled children in areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. 

Volunteers pet a homeless dog in Chernobyl
Volunteers help with feeding © Dogs of Chernobyl / Airbnb

After meeting these very good dogs and helping with feeding, petting, games and cuddles, you'll take a guided tour to Pripyat, a city of 40,000 that was transformed into a ghost town after the meltdown in 1986.

A happy-looking dog gets a head rub from volunteers in Chernobyl
You can assist with the abandoned dogs of Chernobyl through a new volunteer experience ©Dogs of Chernobyl/Airbnb

The volunteer experience starts from €349 (around £299/$384) per person and 100% of the cost goes straight to the Clean Futures Fund. For the next available dates, see here.

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