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The villages, towns and cities of Turkey are full of homeless cats and dogs. The exact number is unknown, but some estimate there are several million dogs living on the streets. Many of the dogs are mixed breeds, so called mutts, whilst others are descended from the classic working dog of Turkey which is the Anatolian shepherd. The number of cats is estimated to be more than several millions. 

There are a growing number of dedicated volunteers who do their best to feed, treat and protect street animals. Local animal-lovers have little to no support in their quest to support street animals in their area. They are all so overwhelmed with the number of animals needing help, they often reach out to charities like Help Street Cats and Dogs for help.

Homeless cats and dogs are left facing injuries and disease without aid. Weather conditions are extreme in Turkey with hot, dry, arid summers and freezing sub-zero winters. Food sources are scarce and during the arid months there is no drinking water.  When the dogs appear on roads searching for food they are often killed on the roadside.

People pose the largest threat to street animals, carrying out mindless and utterly barbaric acts of torture and deliberate cruelty, unfazed by the idea of hurting an innocent animal.

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WHY RESCUE IN TURKEY?

There are millions of  homeless cats and dogs suffering abuse, cruelty, abandonment, hunger and dying of easily treatable diseases in Turkey.  The country hasn’t been able to reduce the number of animals roaming in the streets due to either the lack of or ineffective TNR programmes. Street animals can be an emotive subject in Turkey. On the one hand you have people who go to extreme lengths to protect the street animals, on the other,  there are people who would harm them and get away with it. There is no middle ground. There are animal lovers and there are animal haters, nothing in between.  

Most people’s attitude and behaviour towards animals is abusive and don’t want street cats and dogs on their doorstep. Some get poisoned or shot by the members of the public. Some people who are so misguided often think that animals are somehow able to survive without human intervention or just let them multiply thinking it’s unnatural to spay/neuter.  There is a belief that the shelters provide a safe environment for the animals. However, apart from the volunteers or animal activists, members of the public have never been to a shelter to see for themselves the heartbreaking shelter conditions. Poor economic conditions, high veterinary care and pet food prices also precludes people being able to help street animals.

 


THE SHELTER SYSTEM

There is a shelter system in Turkey managed by the local councils. They are actually called Temporary Animal Hospitals. The idea behind is that sick/injured animals brought to shelters to be treated, spayed/neutered and given rabies shot and released back onto the streets. It's not the type of shelter we have in the west where members of the public can visit and adopt animals. There is no adoption system.  The shelters employ vets along with other staff such as transporters, catchers etc. Their salaries are paid by the government as civil servants. On the face of it it's a great idea, but they are not used for their intended purpose.

Most animals end up in these so-called shelters because the public complain to the local councils about the cats and dogs in their neighbourhoods and the shelter staff come and pick up perfectly healthy animals off the street. Shelter staff will catch them using a noose or sedative often not the right dosage and some die as a result of sedative shot applied by the catchers. Animals get handled badly, kicked around and beaten.

The animals will be locked in shelter rooms with different sizes or breeds smaller ones at risk of being attacked by larger dogs.  There is no clean water or sufficient food. The shelters are rife with disease.  Any healthy animal going into the shelter will either die of starvation, disease or negligence or sometimes cruelty. Vets get away with professional negligence and no one holds them to account. Animals are better off on the streets rather than ending up in a shelter.  At least there is an opportunity to help if they are on the street.

Shelters often built in remote areas  out of town and city locations which is not easy to get to
and are not open to the members of the public to visit. Some offer designated visiting hours on Fridays for a couple of hours, but that offer is also often refused depending on the mood of the staff on the day.  Shelters are heavily guarded 24/7 with high barbed wire, guard dogs, security guards and electric gates similar to prisons.

 


FOREIGN RESCUE GROUPS

Turkey isn’t keen on foreign rescue groups/non-profit organisations offering to help street animals. We do all our rescue in partnership with volunteers/animal lovers, animal boarding facilities and veterinarians. We do not  get involved with any of the government run shelters.

 


NON GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS 

There are a number of non governmental organisations for the protection of animals in Turkey. They are supposed to lobby the government to improve the lives of street animals. However, people who run these organisations often are corrupt and don’t spend the money they receive in donations on animals. None of them are actually looking for sustainable solutions such as spay/neuter or promote adoptions. They are part of the problem. 

 


VOLUNTEERS

​It is very distressing and exhausting to be one of those on-the-ground volunteers who feed, treat and protect animals in their communities. These people are rare and it’s too much for one person to care for hundreds of cats and dogs on the street on their own. The volunteers are having to face animal suffering and cruelty day in day out, often feel helpless and suffer from depression. Some volunteers themselves face abuse from their fellow citizens for helping animals.

THERE IS HOPE

There is a growing number of volunteers/activists doing their best to create awareness of the tragedy of street animals on social media.  There are pressure groups, perhaps not as organised, who complain to the government on a regular basis demanding humane treatment of animals. It’s an issue the country cannot ignore any longer and the only long term solution is to spay and neuter to reduce the street animal population. Until a long term solution is found, street animals in Turkey will continue to need help.