The most disturbing abuse of this breed is its use in organized dog fighting in Turkey. As everyone knows, this is a sport that has continued throughout many centuries, not only in developing countries but in so-called civilized society, including Britain. It persists particularly in Eastern European and Asian countries, where dog fighting is a lucrative business in which large sums of money are wagered on tournaments often held before a mass audience. Turkey is no exception. It is a regrettable fact that most of the major breeders of Kangals allow their strongest dogs to be used in fighting. Some will defend the practice by saying that it is traditional, or that no dogs are actually killed in these contests (there are deaths). Some will tell you that they used to be involved but no longer are, or that they only do the organizing, or that they only spectate. The truth is that there is a whole, well-orchestrated network of participants, some working covertly, others proclaiming their dogs’ successes on placards at their kennels or on internet sites, and all underpinned by a system of corruption and racketeering. There is a connection between dog fighting and the issue of interbreeding with the Malaklı mastiffs described above, for these are the dogs that make the most effective fighters. Kangal Dogs are by nature defensive rather than aggressive, and it takes human intervention to turn them into the kind of animal that will perform on the fight circuit. Besides cross-breeding for size and temperament, body-building steroids and other drugs are used; dogs are confined, goaded and teased to make them react more fiercely when threatened. One ploy used to produce a fierce response in a Kangal forced to take part in an organized fight was to place a child from its family in the ring near the dogs as they squared up to each other; this of course brought out the Kangal’s strongest instinct, that of defending its own. On 24 June 2004 the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed law number 5199, the Animal Protection Law. It covers all animals in Turkey, but there are certain provisions, including those concerning fighting, which particularly affect the treatment of dogs. The first prosecutions of fight organizers under this legislation are yet to be seen, however (2008). It may be hard to understand why enforcement has not followed. One view attributes this to pressures within Turkish society: whistle blowers are not popular; police officers who make arrests put themselves and their families at risk, if not of physical harm, then of social alienation for their family. A veterinarian who treats a dog with obvious fight damage and then reports it may cause another injured dog untold suffering from being patched up inexpertly rather than brought to the clinic. Until the legislation is actually implemented it remains no more than window dressing for the sake of public appeasement and the enhancement of Turkey’s international image. Pressure groups of dog lovers have been formed but to date their protests have been poorly coordinated and tend towards the histrionic. Dog fighting is not only against the law, it goes against Muslim teachings. Among other forms of cruelty towards animals mentioned in the hadiths, organizing fights between animals is said to have been condemned by the Prophet Mohamed. If the Kangal Dog is ever to achieve the respect it deserves on the world stage, the shadow of dog fighting has to be lifted. To take a firm, uncompromising stand against this barbaric practice will present Turkey as a humane, modern member of the international community.
The words of Mahatma Gandhi are as true today as they were 60 years ago: The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals.
Reference: Tahtakılıç, L. and Mellor, M. (2009) The Kangal Dog of Turkey. Towcester, UK, Mellor and Tahtakılıç
(reprinted with permission)