The villages, towns, and cities of Turkey bear witness to a significant population of homeless cats and dogs. Although the exact number remains unknown, experts estimate that several million dogs roam the streets. Among them are mixed breeds, commonly known as mutts, as well as descendants of the revered Anatolian shepherd, a cherished working dog in Turkey. The feline population is similarly vast, numbering in the millions.
There are a growing number of devoted volunteers tirelessly striving to provide food, medical care, and protection for these street animals. Sadly, local animal lovers often find themselves lacking the support necessary to fulfill their mission of aiding the animals in their communities. Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of animals in need, they frequently turn to organisations like Help Street Cats and Dogs for help.
Homeless cats and dogs in Turkey endure a multitude of challenges, from untreated injuries to debilitating illnesses. The country's weather conditions exacerbate their plight, with scorching hot, arid summers and bitterly cold, sub-zero winters. Scarce food sources further compound their struggle, and during the dry months, the absence of drinking water compounds their hardship.
Humans pose the greatest threat to these street animals. Engaging in mindless and utterly barbaric acts of torture and deliberate cruelty, some individuals remain unfazed by the notion of inflicting harm upon innocent creatures.
WHY RESCUE IN TURKEY?
Homeless cats and dogs in Turkey endure unimaginable suffering, facing abuse, cruelty, abandonment, hunger, and easily treatable diseases. The exact number of these animals remains unknown, but estimates suggest there are several million dogs and cats roaming the streets. Unfortunately, efforts to reduce this population through trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs have been ineffective or nonexistent, exacerbating the issue.
In Turkey, street animals evoke extreme reactions from the public. On one hand, there are individuals who go to great lengths to protect and care for these animals, while on the other hand, there are those who harbor animosity and inflict harm upon them without consequence. The situation leaves no room for middle ground—there are either animal lovers or animal haters, with no in-between.
Many people in Turkey hold abusive attitudes and behaviors toward animals, shunning the presence of street cats and dogs in their neighborhoods. Some resort to poisoning or shooting these animals, driven by misguided beliefs that they can survive without human intervention or that spaying/neutering is unnatural. There is a misconception that shelters provide a safe haven, but apart from dedicated volunteers and activists, the general public remains oblivious to the heartbreaking conditions within these facilities. Factors such as poor economic conditions, high veterinary care costs, and expensive pet food further hinder people from aiding street animals.
THE SHELTER SYSTEM
Turkey has a shelter system overseen by local councils, known as Temporary Animal Hospitals. However, these shelters do not resemble those found in the Western world, where visitors can adopt animals. Instead, their purpose is to provide treatment, spaying/neutering, and rabies shots before releasing sick or injured animals back onto the streets. Although the concept seems promising, the shelters often deviate from their intended purpose.
Most animals in these shelters are brought in due to public complaints about cats and dogs in their neighborhoods. Shelter staff capture these healthy animals using nooses or sedatives, resulting in some unfortunate deaths. Animals within the shelters endure rough handling, kicks, and beatings. They are confined to rooms of varying sizes or breeds, with smaller animals at risk of attacks from larger dogs. Clean water and sufficient food are scarce, making the shelters breeding grounds for diseases. Any healthy animal entering the shelter is likely to perish due to starvation, neglect, or, at times, deliberate cruelty. Veterinary professionals escape accountability for negligence, and animals often fare better on the streets than within these shelters, where assistance is rare.
Shelters are typically located in remote areas away from urban centers, making access difficult. They are not open to the public, with some offering limited visiting hours on Fridays, subject to the staff's mood on the day. The shelters are heavily fortified, resembling prisons, complete with high barbed wire, guard dogs, security personnel, and electric gates.
FOREIGN RESCUE GROUPS
Turkey exhibits reluctance toward foreign rescue groups and non-profit organisations offering assistance to street animals. Our rescue efforts are conducted in partnership with local volunteers, animal lovers, boarding facilities, and veterinarians. We do not engage with government-run shelters.
Several non-governmental organisations in Turkey are dedicated to animal protection and advocating for improvements in street animal welfare. However, many of these organisations suffer from corruption, misusing the funds received from donations and failing to prioritize the well-being of animals. Rather than seeking sustainable solutions such as spaying/neutering and promoting adoptions, they contribute to the problem.
Being an on-the-ground volunteer who feeds, treats, and protects animals within their communities can be distressing and exhausting. These dedicated individuals are rare, facing the daunting task of caring for hundreds of street cats and dogs single-handedly. They witness daily animal suffering and cruelty, often feeling helpless and succumbing to depression. Some volunteers even face abuse from fellow citizens for their compassionate efforts.
THERE IS HOPE
Despite the challenges, there is a growing number of volunteers and activists using social media to raise awareness about the plight of street animals. Pressure groups, though not extensively organised, consistently demand humane treatment of animals from the government. The country can no longer ignore this issue, and the only sustainable solution lies in implementing widespread spaying and neutering programs to reduce the population of street animals. Until such long-term solutions are implemented, street animals in Turkey will continue to rely on the support and assistance of compassionate individuals and rescue groups.