TURKISH STRAY DOGS INTERVIEW By Claudette Vaughan
We would like to know all about Turkey and the specific problems animals face there.
The attention of my foundation is mainly focused on stray dogs and dogs in shelters in Istanbul. Turkey has an incredible amount of stray cats and dogs. Some figures: There are approximately 150,000 stray dogs in Istanbul and approximately 30,000 dogs living in shelters. Turkey’s three largest cities (Izmir, Ankara and Istanbul) have over 500,000 stray dogs together. Because of lack of education, many people are not aware of the fact that animals do have emotions and do experience pain. Due to misinterpretation of the Quran, dogs are considered dirty animals. There is only one humane and structural solution to the stray dog problem, which is Neuter and Release, but because of neglect and corruption the problem hasn’t been solved yet. Dogs are abused, and most of the time, the abusers are not prosecuted, and even if they are, the penalties are low. The majority of the 30,000 dogs that are living in shelters are locked up in a municipal shelter; places with more than a 1,000 dogs, that hardly receive any (medical) care or food. There has been a law since June 2006 obliging municipalities to solve their stray dogs problem by means of catch, neuter, vaccinate and return. Most of the cities don’t comply with the law and in the rare case that they do, it is not done in the right way. Animals that are caught are not fed, are not neutered professionally and are afterwards dumped in desolated places to starve of hunger and thirst, instead of being released in their original territory again. Citizens are afraid of the strays and chase them.
What does your and your organization do?
We try to increase awareness for this problem and the right solution in our contacts with citizens and authorities in both Turkey and Europe and through our website. We support Turkish organizations in their struggle for the dogs. We are their “lifeline” to European internet sources and we pay some of their bills. We also offer financial support to shelters and some smaller (neutering)projects.
You have spoken about the “terrible conditions in the shelters in Turkey”. How many shelters are there, are any Government sponsored and what have you witnessed when at one?
As said, my expertise is restricted to Istanbul, but the circumstances in the rest of Turkey are not any different. There are 33 shelters in Istanbul, most owned by the municipality. Dogs are locked in in overcrowded places 24/7. No medical care is provided and hardly any food. Dogs eat each other, dogs with mange, open wounds, tumors.
Please speak about your experience on the ignorance of the authorities in Turkey as you have said, “they are actually the guilty parties” when it comes to stray animals. What about the corruption in Turkish politics – what do you know of this? Are they spreading false rumors about animal protection workers?
The Turkish animal welfare bill from 2004 that was implemented in 2006, obliges all municipalities to solve the stray dogs problem by means of neuter and release. The city of Istanbul did not have the infrastructure or know-how to handle the project and therefore opened a tender. A company in pesticide was given the contract. They were paid depending on the number of ovaries and testicles they could hand over. The dogs were captured in a violent way, transported to the shelter in non-ventilated cars, and stayed there without proper care or food. We have pictures of the starving dogs in their so-called rehabilitation centers. We have testimonies from vets stating that the dogs were more or less abused instead of being neutered in a normal way. And dogs that survived their stay were dumped in unfamiliar places. (after being neutered, dogs should be returned to their original territory; they know where to find food, water and safe places, and they form a pack. Dumping them in unfamiliar areas causes fighting and disorientated dogs). All this was reported many times to the head of the veterinarian department of Istanbul and to the mayor. A municipal vet, who was in charge of checking on the company, reported abuse and neglect to the head of the veterinarian department. The man was forced to change his report, and when he did not do so, he was withdrawn from the job. . For a long time nothing changed. Then EHDKD (a Turkish animal welfare organization) took the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality to court. As a result, the tender contract of the pesticide company was cancelled. But……..since January the neutering is being done by municipal vets, and the situation is still as bad as it was, with only one difference: dogs are no longer dumped in unfamiliar areas in the cities, but in desolated areas (forest, highways) without anything to eat or drink. Again, the head of the veterinarian department and the mayor have been informed, but nothing has changed so far. In many Turkish cities dogs are caught but not neutered and instead dumped outside of the cities. Poisoning of dogs by municipalities is every day practice.
The European committee granted Turkey a huge amount of money for a rabies control project. The committee had intended for the money to be spent efficiently in combination with the neutering campaigns that are mandatory by law. However, as became clear from personal connections, the Turkish state department that is responsible for the vaccination never intended to neuter, vaccinate and release the stray dogs. Additionally, The Ministery of Agriculture which is responsible for the vaccination campaign is against neuter and release and does everything possible to change legislation in favor of catch and dump or catch and kill.
How are street dogs dealt with currently in Turkey?
Most people ignore them, many are afraid of them, and some abuse them. There are only few people that take care of them. Most municipalities kill them, some neuter them, just a few really implement neuter and release. Animal welfare workers tend to catch the dogs and lock them in shelters, which is obviously not the right solution: the number of strays adapts to the capacity of the environment, so when a dog is caught or killed, his place will be taken by a new dog: females will mate more often, their litter will be bigger and the survival chances of the pups will be higher. And the shelters are of course overcrowded, the municipal workers do not care for the residents and the volunteers working in the shelters can only look after so many dogs and certainly do not have the funds to feed and treat them properly.
What can be done?
Well, first of all we need money to support the local animal welfare organizations in their work in the shelters, the neutering campaigns and educational work. As much publicity as possible will help to create awareness of the problem both in and outside of Turkey. We have contributed to an amazing educational documentary; Let’s try to get this film broadcasted worldwide! People that visit this beautiful and impressive country should be made aware of its dark side. I am not lobbying to boycott tourism to Turkey, I rather ask tourists to give a small donation to the local animal welfare organisations in the city they visit or go to a vet with a sick or wounded stray dog they encounter and make sure the dog gets proper treatment by taking care of the costs, or apply tick and flee treatment to some stray dogs. Furthermore let’s generate political pressure; write to your national politicians and ask them to make a stand and to put some pressure on Turkey’s authorities. Turkey is not the only country with a stray dog problem, we should work towards legislation being applied in every country of the world to ensure animal rights and, of course, making sure the laws are implemented and able to sanction when not properly implemented. If you want to support us and our work for the dogs in Turkey, please contact email@example.com or visit our website www.actiezwerfhonden.nl
Why isn’t it on the European agenda in European politics?
The stray dog problem is regarded as a local issue, there is no European legislation. We are trying very hard to get in on the agenda, and to get proper legislation in order to protect stray animals and pets.
You have said, “it’s been a long struggle without much response”. Tell us about that?
It is common knowledge that Turkey already had a stray dog problem a hundred years ago, and municipalities have been trying to solve the problem ever since, by means of poisoning and deportation campaign. For obvious reasons, explained before, this did not solve the problem; there was an increase rather than decrease in the number of strays. All kinds of animal welfare organizations have been working on solving the problem for more than 10 years. Somewhere in 1999, the method of Neuter and Release was introduced in Turkey. Because of lack of knowledge, education and communication and a lot of ignorance, the method is still not applied on a large scale. There are one or two good examples like the rehabilitation centre in Bursa. There also some organizations doing a really good job in neutering as many animals as they can, but it’s still a drop in the ocean.
What about the Turkish people. How do they think of stray and neglected animals?
Most people aren’t even aware of the fact that animals have feelings, like pain and joy. A lot of Turkish people consider them dirt. They are regarded as lower species and it seems to be a law of nature in Turkish society that one always mistreats the ones that are lower. People are afraid of the dogs roaming around and there are a lot of misconceptions regarding animal rights and the Islam. This is why animal welfare workers are often considered kind of an enemy rather that the more or less heroic image they have in western society.
Are their street cats in Turkey and what is the condition like for them?
There are indeed a lot of street cats as well, but a cat is more self-supporting and has the ability to hide himself. One of my friends in Istanbul feeds about 60 stray cats every day. One evening I joined her. When we arrived at the feeding spots I could really not see one cat, but after her special whistle about 30 cats came running towards us to get their daily meal. So cats aren’t very much threatened.
Please speak at length on the misconception that many people have in the West towards Islam and its treatment of animals.
If only it were just the people in the West that had these misconceptions… the problem is actually that these misconceptions are common within the Islamic world. We really try to make people see that the Islam is in essence a very animal friendly religion. AYAT (verse in the Koran) 6:38 ” All the beasts that roam the earth and all the birds that wing their flight are but communities like your own. We have left out nothing in the Book. They shall all be gathered before their Lord.”
Why is there a lack of educational programs in Turkey and how would one get a educational program off the ground?
I am afraid this is a lack of communication, interest and money. Turkey is a very large country and is in some areas still without modern means of communication. Furthermore an educational program means that at least the authorities are aware of the need of such a program……but they are not. In my opinion the authorities are the ones who are most to blame for animal abuse. Some animal welfare organizations really try hard to start an educational program, but the problem is lack of funds and lack of cooperation. So some kids do get lessons in animal friendly behavior and the stray dog problem, but these programs are always organized by volunteers- the state doesn’t spend a penny on education.
Do you accept donations? And how can people reading this donate Linda?
Yes, we are thankful for any donations. We very badly need money to finance the sheltering of 400 dogs in Atakoy, to support the SHKD forest shelter, to finance medical treatment of some strays in Gulsuyu, and to support local neutering campaigns. We would also like to invest in education.
People can donate through the donation button on our website, or through Paypal (e-mail address Linda.firstname.lastname@example.org), or transfer a donation to our bank account (Stichting ActieZwerfhonden Zonnemaire
BIC / SWIFT-Code: PSTBNL21
Bank: POSTBANK N.V.-Amsterdam)
Did money go from the EU into rabies control to the Bursa Rehabilitation program and how successful was this?
No, Bursa was a combined effort of the municipality of Orhangazi, Bursa Animal Protection Association, Uludağ University and Pro Animale, established to catch, neuter, vaccinate and return the stray dogs in the area. Bursa rehabilitation centre started its work about 3 months ago. As written before, the EU Rabies Control money will at first only be used for pilot projects in Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul and I don’t think that will be successful…
Why do you think it is that people in the Netherlands and Europe are ignoring the problems you and others working with animals in Turkey are currently facing?
Well, it is not easy to support people and animals in Turkey. Turkish organizations are not allowed to receive donations from abroad, import rules are complicated, import fees are high, the country is immense, as is the problem, and adopting dogs from Turkey is, because of Rabies, not as simple as adopting a dog from, let’s say Spain. Because of all this, there are only 2 or 3 organizations fighting for the Turkish dogs in the Netherlands. Most Dutch organizations support projects in Spain. There are several reasons for this. Spain is for one closer to Holland, so donations can easily be transported by car. Spain is also an EU member so there will therefore be no difficulties with customs. And most Spanish people speak German or English, so no communication problems. Politicians in Europe are ignoring Turkish problems because Turkey is not an EU member state and because they say the stray dog issue is a national issue.
Who is supervising the law in Turkey and are there any animal welfare laws in place at all over there for stray animals?
Turkey accepted an animal welfare bill in 2004. As far as the stray dogs are concerned, it should have been implemented in June 2006, however, supervision fails and the municipalities don’t feel like implementing the law because they don’t think it is useful. The government should have put an effort in information and education, so the municipalities would have known neuter and return is the only structural and humane solution to the stray dog problem. Also the Turkish municipalities lack the knowledge and infrastructure and sometimes the money as well, to implement the law.
How are stray animals killed and who is doing the killing?
The strays are poisoned and starved. In most cases, the employees of the municipality are responsible; they poison on large scale and dump dogs in desolated places.
What is your Wish List? If you were sent money, what would you spend it on?
Well, naturally I would very much like to improve the shelter in Atakoy; maybe buy a nice strip of land and build some permanent facilities. The shelter has been forced to move a couple of years ago and will probably have to move again within the near future. Because of this we can only take care of the very basic needs, but the dogs suffer too much under the weather conditions, and the ladies in charge really work under poor conditions.
I would like to have produced a series of educational movies on different aspects of animal welfare and have them broadcasted nationwide, and I would also like to have advertisements on these subjects published in local newspapers.
And of course a educational program for school kids, advertisement in the newspapers and magazines asking people to neuter their animals, to take care of the strays and explaining to them that animals have feelings too.
And I would like to have the municipal neutering campaign supervised by animal welfare workers and the conditions in the municipal shelters improved.
i was just readıng ur websıte and ı relızed u spoke about how cats are treated very well. ı can speak for myself and ı can say that ıs not true. everyday my husband and ı feed the local cats ın the surroundıng area. today we say the most frıtenıng thıng done to a street cat that ıs consıdered anımal abuse done by the turkısh gov owned vetanerıes.
the cat had a huge hole on the sıde of her body and a man who worked at a store that was there saıd that thıs happens all the tıme by the vets to fıx the street cats.
by them cuttıng corners and neuterıng them ın thıs way ıs most deff consıdered anımal abuse. the cat was left wıth a open wound and was most deff ınfected.
ı am goıng to do what ever ı can to fınd out who dıd thıs and shut them down. ıf they just dıd there job the rıght way then there would be no problem.
ı guess ı was just hopıng to get some support on thıs subject.
ı hope to hear from u soon to whom ever thıs may concern
Dee Brown says
so very sad. i just got back from Kusa Dasi and all the cats and dogs were in a terrible starving state. appalling treatment of these lovely animals. i fed them everyday and put water down. the Turks are so ignorant about animal welfare.
Tina Wainwright says
Yes well said u friend are right dogs in particular are not careful and the law in Turkey is just being ignored the dogs are living on the streets in a cruel and evil state of illness and starvation
Jan Wild says
Just back from Turkey Ichmelor too many stray dogs. Saw a lovely dog yesterday obviously in need of water in the heat. The dog went on the beach and was told to go. Then i saw another Turkish male i told him to give the dog water, he just looked at me gone out!!! Until Turkey ups their animal rights and human they do not deserve to be in the E.U.
I have a dog myself and love all animals that i would never treat them bad.
Let humans who abuse, injure and/or
kill God’s precious beautiful,wonderful
animals die, because animals do no
harm to this planet only evil humans.
By the way, it’s not a matter of
education altogether, it’s what’s in
the soul of the human-being in how
he/she sees the worth in an animal.
I represent a Turkish animal charity called KAPSA – Kalkan Association for the Protection of Street Animals. Kalkan is a touristic village on the south coast of Turkey. I was very interested to read this article because it demonstrates very clearly that the Stray animal problem is a Turkey wide problem. Some people that visit Kalkan think that it is purely a local problem.
Since about 1994 a small group of people living in Kalkan, both Turkish and European, worked together to have the street animals neutered and to treat them if sick or injured. But as tourism grew in Turkey so did Kalkan and with more and more people visiting and living in Kalkan the street animal population also grew. KAPSA was set up as an official organisation in April 2008 to improve the well-being of Kalkan’s street animals.
Kapsa is a multi-cultural group of volunteers who care about the health and well being of Kalkan’s street animals and wish to promote informed and compassionate action to improve the living conditions of all Kalkan’s animals
• To improve understanding and treatment of animals through public education, example and advocacy and to increase local awareness of, and compassion for the plight of street animals, • To prevent the birth of unwanted animals by continued practice of ‘Neuter and Return’ • To reduce the number of unwanted animals being brought into Kalkan from outside by extending our work to surrounding villages
• To provide appropriate veterinary care for sick and injured street animals
• To reduce the number of sick and starving animals by implementing a winter feeding program
• To find suitable homes for animals where ever possible
• To show people the importance of having owned animals neutered and encourage responsible ownership
• To keep dangerous animals off the streets of Kalkan • To set up a registry of ALL dogs in Kalkan (Owned or otherwise)
We neuter around 300-400 animals each year, in winter we have about 70 volunteers feeding over 1000 cats and dogs and we treat dozens of sick and injured animals each year. We also visit local schools and teach children about looking after animals and the importance of responsible ownership and neutering.
We are funded entirely by donations and get no help from the local municipality.
yvonne wakefield says
The government needs to do more!!!! Also you must have some kind of order at the compounds where they are kept, in enclosures. And puppies in a separate area!!!!! Its heartbreaking!!!!
Jane Macdonald says
I feel so disgusted by the authorities not implementing protection to ALL THE ANIMALS dogs ,cats . The western world hates cruelty to animals, and Turkey are not helping themselves NO-ONE will want them to join the EU untill they start caring for there street animals. TOURISTS also dont like there cruelty, a lot of people I know have been there but will not go again on holiday, and by word of mouth the Turkish dream of getting into the EU is getting further away for them. When they STOP HURTING ANIMALS THE WORLD MIGHT LISTEN.
matthew plain says
Im an Australian . Visiting Turkey for the 1st time. Its 2 weeks since I have arrived. So far this country has been an amasing expirence. Its very beautiful and its rich history has amased me. My hotel is fantastic, the manager has been brilliant, until not 30 minutes ago I witnessed him boot a defenceless cat into a parked car. How distgusting, I am horribly disturbed by not only witnessing this. But seeing how many animals I have seen here on the streets is this common place. How can a country such as this allow this to happen. It has ruined my turkey expirence, I have cats back home who currently have family members staying with them. Looking after them, caring for them 24/7 whilst I am away. I am checking out of hotel and will leave this on as there review. I only hope someone stands up for these poor animals. In Australia he would be arrested.
Steve Flanagan says
I’m in Altinkum just now on holiday and have become aware of the stray dog problem. I was coming in with my wife last night and it was pouring with rain. As we hurried into the apartment block, a poor stray dog looking bedraggled by the weather was walking along beside us looking dejected as we were . Difference was that we were going to a warm comfy bed first after a whiskey nightcap. The poor dog was going to have to find shelter by itself with no chance of any nourishment beforehand.
Why dogs and cats are left to roam the streets and maybe survive on their wits, luck and human generosity if their lucky is beyond me . I cannot understand the logic at all. Animals do have feelings and dogs and cats are an obvious example as this is so apparent by their behaviour and reactions.
Something needs to be done and now
Diana Peek says
I have just returned from Izmir (September 2014) and I am amazed and delighted at the manner that dogs and cats are treated there. I walked for miles around Izmir City Centre, Alsancak and Karsiyaka and the relationship between humans and animals is wonderful. The tagged dogs i.e. neutered and spayed are in terrific condition, in fact they and awful lot of them are overweight. There are automatic water dispensers in Alsancak (which are not used for stubbing out cigarettes, which is what happens in my part of the world) Blocks of flats adopt 4 or 5 dogs and keep an eye on them, shops put out food for both dogs and cats when they close in the evening. Children play with any dog that will let them in public areas and to be honest a lot of the dogs are fussy about what they eat!! A chunk of bread in a lot of cases is not good enough!! I am involved in an animal charity and we rely completely and totally in charity handouts, whereas Izmir is paid for from taxes. I also visited one of the Government kennels – called either the Animal House or the Dog House and it was a palace to what we have here, despite all our efforts.
This sea change in Izmir began 10 or 11 years ago I believe, when the local Belediye decided that enough was enough and the City had to clean up its act quite literally i.e. its one of the cleanest cities I have ever been to and was a joy to walk around in. Everyone that I spoke to (and I spoke to a lot on the subject) and they believe that “animals are part of all our families) Most of Izmir appears to be blocks of flats and the strays are their pets.
For two years I visited Antalya and I found the strays pretty well looked after, particularly the tagged ones. For those living outside Muslin countries, please note that animals cannot be euthanized – no Vet will do it unless the animal is in a really horrendous way.
Judy D. says
Some neıghbours and I have taken care of two street dogs, Tanny and Blacky. One day, both of the dogs were gone. One dısappeared ın February and Blacky now 5 days ago. The Anımal shelter denıes takıng them. I have seen the Cıty Hall government Anımal shelter car comıng out and lookıng for street dogs. They brıng a gun wıth sleepıng ınjectıons to catch the anımalsand then they brıng them somewhere, poıson them and throw the dogs away lıke garbage.
At the anımal shelter the dogs are overcrowded, starved, gıven old moldy bread , the anımals are fıghtıng each other, unclean place sun and raın. Anımals are left to dıe there and there.There ıs no chance of survıval. The Vets do not care. It ıs heart breakıng what people can do wıth dogs and cats.
I have seen a bleedıng cat ın the cage on the cement, dıed thursty and her stomach was open bleedıng.
I have seen a brown dog’s ear was bıtten by the other dogs ın the cage and the Vet saıd there ıs nothıng lıke that.
I lılve ın Kusadası, Turkey. The anımal welfare bıll ıs not ımplemented.
i am appalled after reading about the poor dog that had its ears cut off by hasan kuzu and neset yaman. where is the dog, can anyone rescue it? Thousands have responded as to the torture they would inflict on those two low lifes! I am one who would put down the abusers! they are not human, they are monsters. i will never visit Turkey now, knowing the abuse of animals is ongoing and horrifying. Too all of the wonderful people who try to help these animals, keep doing it as they very desparately need your help.
Becky Beck says
I too saw the poor dog that had it’s ears cut off by two moron’s. Can you please find this dog and get it away from these abusers?… This was so upsetting I contacted SPCA and they stated that the Turkish Animal welfare may be able to go and get this dog and save it!.. I see that others have also posted on this Horrific abuse I feel helpless and I cannot get this poor dog out of my mind. Please!.. Do something these two morons need to have servere punishment for this. What they got was a slap!.. Lets cut off their Ears
tie them up with a rope and let them ROT.. They do not belong in society.. They both have a place waiting for them in “HELL” They will beg for Mercy, They will Suffer for Eternity.. Anyone that harms innocent animals will pay. Please rescue this poor Dog!.. It needs our help.. They put this on Facebook for all to see.. They are SICK!
Roxane Janet says
Looking for loving homes for 50 dogs
Sorry , but a typical ignorant canadian who knows nothing about the rest of the world and theow bullshit around.
1- Dogs are not comsidered dirty in Turkey, actually street dogs are well protected and loved bu general public.
2- corruption is rarelly occurs in Turkey for the last 20 years.
3- istanbul minupucality does everything to take care of stray animals but country is big and there are a lot of animals.
4- the reason there are many street dog and cats is Turks don’t Euthanasia them.
It is illegal to put them in sleep in Turkey Unless Canada and USA where they will kill a street animal in 1week if nobody adopt it!