Thousands protest in Turkey against plans to kill stray dogs

25 июня 2024

Thousands of people in Turkish cities have been protesting against the government's plans to kill stray dogs. There are around four million stray dogs living in the country, comprising a risk of zoonotic infections, as well as health and welfare risks for the dogs themselves. Killing, however, is inhumane and ineffective. Our sister organisation HAKİM (Animal Rights Watch Committee) calls for a culture of coexistence and compassion: “We will not allow you to capture or kill animals.”

Turkish animal rights organisation HAKİM has been working on changing laws and regulations in favour of animals in Türkiye since 2014. As a part of the ‘Law for Life' umbrella organisation, they have been co-organising daily marches protesting against the government’s plans for the large-scale killing of stray dogs for over a month now. “The fact that people from all walks of life come together to protect animals and raise their voices gives us the strength to continue fighting,” HAKİM’s Fatma Biltekin says.

The government has been trying to change legislation around stray dogs for a long time. This has been met with many protest marches over the years, causing enough pressure for the government’s plans to kill off these animals to be withdrawn until thus far. The new plans still have to be voted for. The idea − although only bits and pieces are known and there is conflicting information − seems to be to catch the dogs and put them in shelters, after which their photos will be put online for adoption. Dogs who remain unadopted for 30 days would be killed with a lethal injection, after which new dogs will be taken in and the process repeated.

False impressions

HAKİM: “Although the impression has been given that the sterilisation method has been tried but not successful, no effective efforts have been implemented by municipalities to date.” In recent years only 260,000 stray dogs were neutered annually; insufficient to shrink the overall population. And now municipalities are expected to catch 15 times this number, neuter them and get them adopted in 30 days.

Only 20% of municipalities have shelters, and there are huge concerns with regard to animal welfare in the often inadequate and overcrowded shelters. Cases of torture (resulting in death) have been reported, and of unneutered dogs being abandoned in remote areas without food. HAKİM has no reason to believe that it will be different from this now.

The Turkish Bar Association, representing lawyers, said that passing the bill would imply an “unprecedented animal massacre” [2]. With four million stray dogs, it is likely that many will not be adopted and therefore killed. This is cruel and ineffective: it focuses only on the symptom rather than causes. Nothing has been done to ban puppy mills, and hardly any punishment is imposed on humans abandoning their pets and municipalities failing to take their responsibilities. At the same time, the costs of food and veterinary services are only increasing.

Effective and humane solutions

Affection for stray animals is widespread in Turkey, and in many areas stray dogs are taken care of by the community. “[They] have been living with us on our streets, in our homes, gardens and workplaces for centuries,” as HAKİM states. A poll showed that only 2.7% of respondents support killing the dogs [1], and a petition to stop the cruel plans has already been signed over 286 thousand times!

Nevertheless, populations need to be decreased – which is also to the advantage of the dogs themselves. In places where abandoned, unneutered dogs reproduce uncontrollably, they struggle with hunger and disease and often have to deal with violence (also from humans). In such situations, dogs can become aggressive. Therefore, a large-scale neutering campaign must be launched across the entire country, starting in rural areas. Rather than locking dogs up in unsafe shelters for adoption or killing, it would be better to collect, neuter, vaccinate and subsequently release the dogs in their own territory.

But focusing exclusively on stray dogs is not enough. As long as the root causes of dogs living on the streets − including human behaviour – are not addressed, the stray dog population will not decrease, and the killing will continue. Governments should listen to animal rights organisations and learn from the International Companion Animal Management (ICAM) Coalition, which has published an extensive guide for humane stray dog population management in various languages. In 2017, we organised an international conference about stray dogs in conjunction with our Spanish sister party PACMA, where people from ICAM shared their expertise.

HAKİM concludes: “As always, there are those who are in favour of life, who speak out against this injustice, who know that the right to live free from torture in cities or in this world is not reserved solely for humans.”

Click here to sign the petition, and visit the HAKİM website for updates about this organisation’s amazing work for animals.