It started off as a simple idea one day – to be a voice for the strays of Serbia. Since its foundation in 2005 to try and help the street dogs and cats of Serbia; our sister organisation, ‘Serbian Animals Voice’ (SAV) campaigned for a better deal for strays.
As you can see in the link above – ‘about Serbian animals’, we worked with Serbian activists to get the government to change their attitude and policy of dealing with strays; enforcing the laws of Serbia which actually protect animals (see more via the link).
Unlike the Turkish government approach, which the Serbian government should follow finally and learn from, we have always found the Serbian government, municipalities and authorities to be the most primitive, ignorant and pig headed ‘legislators’ that you could ever wish to meet. They are ignorant; simple as that, listen to nothing which is presented to them, and continue to live in a policy for strays which belongs in the 1700’s, not the 21st Century.
We have gained a lot of very good, compassionate and very hard working campaigner friends in Serbia since our foundation; even today, they must never give up their fight, and we hope that the model of Turkey will eventually lead to Serbian authorities realising their many faults, and instead working to protect the animals rather than killing them.
We very much suggest that both articles below are read in the order that they are presented; but we draw especially to the second article from the ‘New York Times’ and the very positive approach that now is the norm within Turkish government when it comes to helping and protecting stray animals.
As we say and have shown so much on SAV, the Serbian government and its authorities are still living in the dark ages when it comes to their approach to animal welfare. All we can say to out Serbian activist friends is that Turkey’s approach must be used as a very positive signal; so much has changed there in very few years.
Most of all; continue to fight the fight; you know that you are correct in everything that you do – it is the government and authorities who are blind to the modern world, not you.
We have also a SAV Facebook page which allows activists to connect with each other; and just like Turkey, also allows dogs and cats to be found forever homes with people all over the world.
You can visit SAV Facebook by clicking on the following link:
The most successful campaigns are usually the very ones which take many years, or decades, to win. Serbian activists, YOU WILL WIN. The government is wrong and they have known it for decades; show them the situation in Turkey now – something which everyone must learn from.
With respect to all the Serbian activists in their fight for what is right !
Turkey feeds stray animals during Covid-19 outbreak
As the people of Turkey stay at home to contain the spread of Covid-19, the government is tackling the question of who will feed the country’s hundreds of thousands of stray animals.
The interior ministry has decided that the job falls to local councils nationwide, and has ordered them ‘to “bring food and water to animal shelters, parks, gardens, and other areas where animals are found”.
The ministry insists that “all necessary measures must be taken to ensure stray animals don’t go hungry”, adding that the animals’ shelters and dens should also be disinfected.
Activists, volunteers and residents usually feed Turkey’s army of strays, but self-isolation and restrictions on movement have hit animal welfare hard.
While councils sometimes provide services for street animals, it is unusual for the central government to order such a move.
In Turkey’s largest city Istanbul, which has the most confirmed Covid-19 cases, there are some 162,970 stray cats and 128,900 dogs, according to the city’s 2018 figures.
Turkish social-media users have largely praised the move, with many thanking Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.
The official Twitter account of Istanbul’s Bayrampasa district has shared photos of stray animals being fed on 5 April.
”We are with our true friends, with whom we share life…” the district said.
An animal welfare foundation in the Black Sea region has called on people over 65 who have been banned from going outside to get in touch with their district governor to help feed the animals.
Turkey has so far refrained from imposing a nationwide lockdown, and instead urges the public to stay at home.
Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul tweeted a photo of himself stroking a dog and saying ”we should not abandon our animal friends during these tough days”.
But not everyone appreciates the tweet, with one user telling the minister to “let the animals be… and think instead of the prisoners, because coronavirus does not distinguish between inmates“.
This is a reference to an draft law to release 90,000 prisoners on a temporary basis because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The bill, which is due for debate in parliament this week, faces criticism for excluding political prisoners, including dozens of jailed journalists.
A New Deal for Turkey’s Homeless Dogs
Oct. 2, 2019
After 15 years of legislative changes, local initiatives and grass-roots activism, life has become more humane for animals that roam city streets.
ISTANBUL — Pinar Satioglu, 48, a dentist from the Anatolian part of Istanbul, leaves her clinic duties behind every Friday, as she has done for the past 20 years. Instead of treating dental patients, she spends her day at the Kadikoy Municipality’s Center for Street Dog Rehabilitation, feeding, walking and giving care to about 400 rescued dogs.
In Istanbul alone, a megacity of 15 million people, there are thought to be 130,000 dogs and 125,000 cats roaming free. These animals in all of Turkey’s urban centers now get services from local governments: shelter, regular feeding, sterilization and medical checks by trained veterinarians.
It wasn’t always that way. “Municipalities around Turkey poisoned hundreds of dogs in the late ’90s and early 2000s,” Dr. Satioglu said. “This poison is not only the most painful and inhumane way to kill the dogs, but it was also a public health hazard. It enters the soil, the water and gets in contact with children playing in the streets.” On one summer day in 1998, she saw a pile of bodies — perhaps 60 dogs. They had been poisoned with citrinin. She and fellow animal lovers staged a demonstration that day to protest the mass killings of street dogs.
Street animals, particularly dogs, are often a part of the urban landscape in developing countries. This endangers human health. They bite, and their feces on the street may be a serious hazard, containing microorganisms that not only are pathogenic to humans, but in some cases are also resistant to antibiotics. The most serious consequence is rabies. According to the World Health Organization, more than three billion people, about half of the world’s population, live in countries and territories where dog rabies exists. The virus takes 55,000 lives each year in Africa and Asia alone.
While some developing countries like Uruguay eliminated rabies in 1983, in Turkey it still remains a public health concern, according to the Turkish Ministry of Health. Research shows that dog destruction isn’t effective in eliminating rabies. Rahul Sehgal, a co-director of companion animals and engagement at Humane Society International, describes killing stray dogs as an “endless process” because of the sheer numbers. The dog populations are large, and access to the more dangerous dogs can be a problem, because they’re not always the ones closest to humans.
Culling is also a counterproductive approach, Mr. Sehgal said. He believes inhumane killings and cruelty toward dogs might accelerate the aggressive behavior in them, enabling a vicious cycle of conflict between human and dog populations in urban areas. “When you kill these dogs, you are killing the dogs closest to humans that are not necessarily even dangerous,” he said.
Nevertheless, street dogs in 80 developing countries where rabies is a risk are still killed in excruciating ways, like the ones Satioglu saw in 1998.
Murat Cirak, the lead veterinarian at the Kadikoy Center, has spent his career treating Istanbul’s street dogs. He confirmed the atrocities that Dr. Satioglu saw in 1998. “Municipalities had teams to exterminate dogs,” he said.
Things changed because the killings of dogs finally provoked demonstrations and public pressure, assisted by the rise of access to the internet, in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Asli Varlier, a street animal welfare activist, recalled 2004 as a year in which the awareness and anger started to peak. “Once those awful photos of the killed dogs started to be widely shared on the internet, there was an increasing public pressure for a law to protect the animals,” she said. “Many important columnists, artists or musicians started to talk about the abuse street animals suffered.”
Organizing online and using her background in event management, Ms. Varlier and some fellow activists — among them pop singers and prominent journalists — staged big public events and concerts for the benefit of the street animals, and in June 2004, the Turkish government passed a law requiring local governments to rehabilitate street animals rather than kill them. It requires the animals to be sterilized, vaccinated and taken back to the place where they were found.
Today, municipalities around the country have teams that scan the districts to look for animals in need of neutering. Once they catch, neuter and vaccinate them (they tranquilize them using a blowpipe and treat them for any potential medical complications, it sometimes takes 10 days for the animals to recover from these operations. Before the animal welfare teams return the dogs to the places where they were found, they plant a yellow digital chip on the animals’ ears, which gives them an identity number for tracking. These chips are also visual signs to the public, as well as the municipality workers, that a particular animal is tracked electronically and its medical data is accessible.
The dogs that end up in municipal shelters or rehabilitation centers like the one in Kadikoy tend to be animals with special needs or abandoned pets unaccustomed to street life. In Turkey’s cities, which have grown rapidly since the 1980s, owning dogs — especially poodles, Dalmatians and Labradors — is considered a status symbol. But in areas where most people live in apartments, it’s not uncommon for pet owners to be overwhelmed by the responsibility and abandon their dogs in the streets.
Having worked in different areas of Istanbul since the 1990s, Dr. Cirak of the Kadikoy center has seen the law lead to significant change. “We figured out most things by trial and error,” he said, “but now we have a good idea about what works for both animals and humans.”
These days, the municipalities around Turkey tap into government funds dedicated to street animal welfare, which they use to feed, sterilize and shelter animals in need, as well as provide regular medical care.
Dr. Cirak and his colleagues in Kadikoy neuter or treat about 50 dogs every day. Between 2004 and 2018, about 1.2 million street animals were neutered and 1.5 million vaccinated across the country. “The extermination teams are now the welfare teams that look after the dogs,” Dr. Cirak said. “This alone tells how much the mentality shifted.”
Dr. Cirak said social media have played a big role. He runs a Facebook group of over 10,000 people to support street animals in Kadikoy, his home district. Group members help his teams identify, catch and treat the animals in need. They also help many dogs find permanent homes: Dr. Cirak said that about 40 percent of the dogs in the center get adopted to be guard dogs in farms and factories, or by families. Many of these adoptions start on social media when he shares a picture of a dog in need of a home.
Social media has also spread memes celebrating Turkey’s new fondness for street animals. A critically acclaimed documentary, “Kedi,” which means “Cat” in Turkish, explored the history of Istanbul’s feline residents and their importance in urban culture — making the city’s cats world famous. Videos went viral around the globe of an imam petting cats in a mosque, a tram stopping to wait for a stray cat to finish drinking water from the ground and a shopping mall letting dogs sleep inside, wrapped in blankets, during a snowstorm. There are even statues of street animals in some cities.
Ahmet Kemal Senpolat, a lawyer who is president of the Animal Rights Federation, said that Turkey still has much still to do to protect street animals — that the laws have significant loopholes. Cruelty, he said, is usually not punished adequately, if at all. If a municipality team commits inhumane acts toward animals, it will probably be ignored, he added. He said such dangers to the animals are often found in municipalities not following the proper procedures, rather than being isolated cases caused by individuals.
“Some municipalities dump hundreds of dogs to forests to get rid of them,” he said. In the process, these dogs become wilder and more aggressive, posing a greater risk to the nearest communities. Dogs abandoned in the wild are also more likely to carry rabies because they are less likely to be neutered, vaccinated and controlled.
Furthermore, not all municipalities in Turkey have the same resources or levels of compassion toward animals, Mr. Senpolat said. And even if their intentions are the best, their methods might be inefficient. “They have big budgets now, but they don’t always manage it well,” he said. “Sometimes they waste millions.”
Nevertheless, Mr. Senpolat also acknowledged progress. “Fifteen years ago, we wouldn’t even be having these conversations,” he said.
The love of street animals has become so much a part of the national psyche that it even brings people together in a politically polarized country. On March 31, Turkey held elections for new leaders in 81 provinces and 957 towns. Ahead of these elections, Mr. Senpolat created a manifesto titled “I promise.” It was a plea to protect and improve the lives of animals, particularly street animals.
HAYTAP, Mr. Senpolat’s organization, brought together leaders from all major political parties, asking them to sign the document. Much to his surprise, there was no resistance. No matter what their politics or worldview, all of them vowed to create a better future for animals.
“The issue became so popular, now politicians cannot afford to alienate animal lovers any more,” he said. “Normally, they never agree on anything else, but they were all on the same page about the street animals. This must be a historic moment.”
Didem Tali is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Turkey.