President Erdogan Speaks About Stray Dogs

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President Erdogan recently made a speech about the stray dog population in Turkey, following his trip to Hungary.

The last time the President delivered a speech on this topic homeless dogs were rounded up & cleared from the streets. They were transported to mountains & forests & left to die.

The dogs had no food or water & were far away from the kind people who care for them. Reports flooded in of multiple deaths as dog hating people saw the President’s speech as a green light to do the dogs harm.

It was this speech & the desperate cries from shocked global citizens that triggered our shelter project in Turkey. An unused municipal shelter that had lain empty since 2018 due to lack of funding had life breathed in to it with our help. More than 850 dogs now call the shelter home. All dogs who would not survive life on the streets.

The Presidents wants to follow a European dog management model using shelters and rehoming. Presently, shelters as we know them do not exist in Turkey. Municipalities are responsible for providing what is known as nursing homes & rehabilitation centres but not all municipalities have them, in fact, most don’t.

Many will say that corruption exists and this is what stops the building & running of more nursing homes but we don’t think it is that simple. While funds may be redirected (we have no evidence of this) we believe that some municipalities are not able to access funds for the dogs.

As a side note, the staffing of nursing homes is problematic. We are extremely lucky in as much as the lady who works at our shelter project in that country is an avid animal advocate who has a genuine love for all animals. This isn’t the case in all nursing homes sadly. Working with dogs is not considered to be a suitable job for many resulting in candidates applying for the jobs purely for the money. In our opinion anyone working with animals should have a care for them in order to do their job to the best standards possible.

Where is the money going to come from to fund these shelters & who is going to run them. Where will the money come from to pay wages, water, electricity, huge food bills, huts for shelter, food & water troughs & medical care. The cost of running these nursing homes is huge.

We have visited shelters run by municipalities that would make the strongest person weep. The first time I saw one such shelter I thought it was someones garden shed. The floor was strewn with dog poo & urine. In the corner were two obviously sick dogs huddled together. They were removed & discovered to be suffering from ehrlichiosis. It was a haunting image forever etched in to my memory. Our shelter project premises is inspected regularly by what is the Turkish equivalent of DEFRA. The department inspects every aspect of the operation & thanks to the diligence of the staff there the shelter passes with flying colours however it is always a tense time for staff who are very keen to do the best job they can. So, how do these other nursing homes get away with such low standards. It also raises another funding problem, where will the money come from to recruit & train more inspection staff & pay their wages?

The President mentions getting dogs off the street & in to homes, something we applaud. But, this is fraught with problems. Many households love dogs but sadly prefer breeds and purchase them in preference to adoption.

There is a misconception in the UK & other parts of the world that dogs living on the streets descend from dogs who were placed there centuries ago are unsuitable for life in a home. This is, on the whole, utter nonsense. A good percentage of dogs coming under our care have lived in homes with families who have abandoned them for many different reasons. Poor health is frequently a cause for abandonment. Other dogs spend their lives shut away in out buildings & used for breeding hunting dogs which the human involved in this misery sells. This is not the same as puppy farming as we know it. Instead of having dog after dog locked away, there is most commonly one single female. These dogs have zero street skills & quickly perish when they are disposed of because they can no longer have pups. Livestock Guardian breeds are not neutered & mate freely producing a large number of puppies during one grazing season alone. Some of these pups may be kept as guarding dogs, some are killed as soon as they are born while others are put in boxes or plastic bags & dumped. They have no skills to survive on the streets. Most die. Only the strongest & most intelligent work out how to live in the environments & go on to live until they are between 2 & 4 years, sometimes longer if they can find a sympathetic human to keep an eye on them & feed them.

Our shelter project has a high percentage of dogs from these situations that are more than suitable to be placed in homes but where will they go?

For the Presidents speech to work he will need to instill a love for mixed breeds in the minds of a large percentage of his citizens. Not an easy task. Even in the UK I watch engagement with images & videos of pedigree & mixed breed dogs with the pedigree dogs engagement far outdoing the mixed breeds. Whenever we have breed dogs come under our care there are always comments about how terrible it is for a breed dog to find themselves abandoned or surrendered. I always struggle with that sentiment.

Another point to note is law 5199, the law concerned with animal welfare in Turkey. This law forbids dogs to be removed from the streets. It is acceptable to remove a dog for sterilisation or medical treatment but they must be returned to the location they were found. How will the President deal with this, will the law be amended?

Our friends in Turkey are concerned.

Many are worried that dogs will be removed & killed or abandoned in barren remote areas to die from starvation. Others are concerned that dogs will be moved to cramped, unsanitary shelters & looked after by people with little understanding of their needs.

They are concerned that dogs moved to the few shelters that exist will suffer from hunger, thirst & disease.

It is very stressful for caretakers of dogs on the streets to watch them being collected & taken, without notice or explanation & never returned. Some of these dogs will be known by their caretakers since puppyhood.

We wish the President well with his plans. We very much hope that he can find the funding to build good quality shelters with well trained & caring staff. And that he can persuade the good people of Turkey to embrace mixed breed dogs & welcome them in to their homes. We will be watching.

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