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Dogs in Istanbul

From: Linda Taal
Sent: November 01, 2006
Subject: Istanbul, a visit

October 17th 2006

This is an extensive report of my visit to Istanbul, together with RTL 4. Through this report I want to explain the precarious situation there. After reading this report, please spread it to as many people as possible: the animal protectionists and the animals URGENTLY need your help!!

To refresh your memory, I will start my report with a text that was published earlier. As written earlier, since June 2004, there is a law that says that neuter and release is the only legitimate way to solve the stray dogs problem. The communities are obliged to deal with the problem and to have a decent shelter where the animals can recover. The animals need to be registered and replaced to their original environment. Because the communities cannot organise this themselves, they held a registration. For Istanbul, the work is "assigned" to a pesticide company. The situation is miserable. Many dogs die, and sick dogs are just being put back in the streets.

There are cases known where a mother dog was caught for sterilisation while she started giving birth. De dog was thrown out of the car into a kennel. She died, and her puppies did as well.

A dog with a hernia was put back after sterilisation, as well as a dog with a fractured hip. Furthermore, there is no decent registration of where the dogs are caught, so they are put back in random places, which causes fights. The circumstances under which the sterilisations take place are not hygienic, the catching of the dogs is nearly animal abuse, ad transport of the animals is done in cars without ventilation; the temperatures in these trucks varies from 38 to 50 degrees Celsius. In addition, the volunteers who work in the shelters are turned into the street, and the same thing happened to the inhabitants of a certain shelter. These dogs are now straying near the shelter without food or water.

Note that the SHKD, who suspected from the start that the whole sterilisation campaign would turn out to be a farce, didn't leave a chance to offer help with training the veterinarians, dog catchers and volunteers, for the sake of the dogs. They even offered to carry out the whole project for AIG, at cost price.
As a result of all of this, I tried to get media attention for the issues. The only reaction came from RTL 4.

Last Saturday, I had an extensive conversation with Fidan Ekiz, and Monday we went to several shelters, together with an animal protectionist from Istanbul. Last Wednesday, a short piece of footage was part of the program "4 in het Land". The program definitely was good for publicity for the stray dogs campaign foundation. Unfortunately, there was little or no attention for the subject it was really about; the abuse in the realization of Neuter and Release in Istanbul, starving of the dogs, corruption, and not fully use the EU funds

My findings are as follows:

Neuter and Release (catch, vaccinate, sterilize, treat possible diseases, and release the dogs in their initial environment after recovery) is needed really bad, and we should be happy that the law provides for this, and that the city of Istanbul is working hard on this.

As mentioned earlier, there is actually no reason for happiness.

Saturday evening, I had a discussion with several volunteers of EDHKD and SHKD and the municipality veterinarian S. The volunteers visited several sterilization centres, and what they saw was horrible. Furthermore, there are many statements of different people about the brutal way of catching the dogs, transporting them in cars that are not ventilated at temperatures of 40-50 degrees Celsius, replacing dogs that are not healthy and surely will not survive on the streets, because, for instance, they have a fractured hip.

S. stated that the dogs in the sterilization centres where he was supervisor on behalf of the municipality, were not being fed and were treated badly. S. made a statement and handed this to his boss. He ordered S. to adjust his statement. S. refused and is now suspended. There are also statements that sterilized dogs are still being poisoned by the municipalities.

The EU has allocated money to prevent rabies in Turkey. One of the measures is to vaccinate all stray dogs, but when subsequently they get poisoned, then this vaccination wasn't of much use.

AIG gets paid by the city of Istanbul per sterilized dog. As a check, AIG needs to collect the removed ovaries, etc. These are counted, and the payment to AIG is based upon this. There is a reasonable suspicion that AIG cuts back on different things (no food, not enough personnel, no adjusted cars, no qualified doctors, no further medical attention) and shares profit with a highly placed official, S.s' boss.

The animal protectionists where more or less desperate; in stead of improvement, we only see the situation getting worse. Besides from the animal suffering caused by AIG, Neuter and Release only works if it is done in a correct and consistent way. The killing of dogs (sterilized or not), only causes an area to be populated with new dogs. If dogs are replaced in another area than they were initially caught (a different territory), causes fights, agitation and disturbance of the natural balance. Furthermore, the sterilization of the dogs should go together with an information campaign which informs the people that they do not have to fear the dogs, that the dogs are vaccinated, and that the community is working on a solution for the problem by the Neuter and Release project.

Sunday, I visited two shelters that are supported by Stray dogs Campaign. The first shelter I visited was the Forest-shelter (if you want to know more about the forest shelter, please take a look on our website). The dogs in the forest shelter are doing well. At the moment, 200 dogs live there.

Some of the dogs will be placed in the Netherlands or in Germany. Around 100 dogs are not able to be replaced, and they will be taken care of in a shelter until they die. Around 50 of these dogs have a "friend" in The Netherlands or Germany, thanks to our campaign "Dogs need Friends". This "friend" pays for the dogs care. All these dogs are doing well, except for one, his friend is informed about his condition.

I spoke with veterinarian N. at the shelter. N. was "lent" to AIG to train veterinarians in sterilization. He saw the abuse and he complained regularly about this. His complaints had no effect and eventually he asked his superiors at SHKD if he could come back; he did not want be involved any longer in the systematic abuse of animals under the veil of Neuter and Release. Another veterinarian who was 'lent' by EDHKD was sent away by AIG because he had too much comments.

I met Gul as well. Gul is our friend who takes care of several stray dogs in Gulsuyu, which are sterilized by SHKD.

(NB. September 19th, I received an urgent e-mail of Gul; Takkie, one of the dogs, was taken away by the municipality. We are very concerned. Gul, Murat, and our other volunteer are trying to trace Takkie.) Besides taking care of the dogs, Gul helps with making people in his neighbourhood more familiar with the dogs, so that they don't abuse them anymore, and he tries to inform them about Neuter and Release.

After this visit, I went to the shelter in Atakoy. Again, most dogs are lively, but the way things looked was depressing. It is impossible for two ladies to take care of 400 dogs and keep the premises clean, especially when the garbage collection doesn't come by regularly, which is the matter in Atakoy.

In comparison with many municipal shelters, the dogs have a good life here. Thanks to your and our support, they get fed regularly and they all have a sheltered place. And a very important thing: They are able to run and play. We are a bit concerned whether there will be enough food for the coming winter. If we can transfer two more places with shadow into shelters, than all chained dogs can be free. Furthermore, a water tank is urgently needed, and three more dogs need to be sterilized.

To make it a bit easier on the ladies, we are looking for someone who, in exchange for money, can help to keep the premises clean and do some odd jobs. We hope to find someone for one day a week, that is all we can afford at the moment. Our biggest concern was Cemille's health. Cemille is one of the ladies. Together with the animal protectionist on site, we keep ourselves informed, in case Cemille isn't able anymore to take care of the dogs.

Sunday evening, I joined Murats wife (SHKD Veterinarian) when she went to take care of "her" stray cats. On two spots, there are approximately 40 stray cats depending on the food they get from her.
She honks and from every corner, cats come for food. She also makes sure that the cats are sterilized and, if necessary, get medical treatment.

Monday was RTL's day. We started shooting at a municipal shelter. The shelter consists of several kennels of 3 x 3 m. The dogs are locked in here in groups of 4 or 5, for 24 hours a day.

The caretaker says that he is an animal lover. What kind of love is to keep an animal locked up for life? For a few Turkish lira, he is willing to open the kennels, and the surprised animals get to play freely for 15 minutes.

This shows that dumping animals in shelters is not a solution for the stray dog problem. There are around 30 of these shelters, and they are packed. The circumstances at this one were relatively good; the kennels were clean and there was food for the dogs. But I wonder if the dogs would want to live their lives this way.

During our transfer to the next location for the shoot, we got a phone call from veterinarian S. (he wasn't suspended yet at this time), if we could please pick up nine puppies. AIG wanted to dump the puppies somewhere along the highway, which would mean they certainly would die. We agreed that the dogs would be picked up Tuesday morning, and that they would be brought to SHKD. (unfortunately, Tuesday we were informed that S. was suspended and that the puppies could not be picked up.) After that, we went to Alibeykoy, one of the municipality shelters from where AIG is doing their sterilization campaign. We wanted to go in, but we didn't get permission. We did see a lot of very skinny, sterilized dogs being held in the kennels. There was bloody faeces on the floors, and there were young skinny puppies living in the kennels.

After this, we went to the forest shelter to show that a dog at least needs a lot of attention, care, freedom of movement, and decent circumstances if it is not possible to replace him after sterilization. Fidan did an interview with Veterinarian N. as well.

A final video about the AIG actions:

Next, we went to the house of one of the volunteers. In his street, there were a lot of stray dogs. After deliberation with his direct neighbours, they had the dogs sterilized and placed a few shelters.
About twelve dogs are fed twice a day, and whenever there is something wrong with them, they are brought to SHKD for tests. This is how Neuter and Release should be working and this is the only way the stray dog problem can be solved. Just make sure that the dogs can not multiply, and give the dogs that are present the kind of care to keep them satisfied so they cause as less trouble as possible. Again, it's a pity that there was no more attention for the real problem in the show.
Did you miss the show?


The next steps of Stray dogs campaign, EDHKD and SHKD to get proper realization of Neuter and release are:
. Keep collecting evidence of the abuse of AIG and the corruption of some officials, and to take legal action against the city of Istanbul;
. Keep trying to get in contact with the mayor of Istanbul and the authorities in Ankara, in order to get nullification of the contract with AIG;
. Generate pressure from outside on the companies AIG and Biosav an Mr. Arif Eker of Istanbul municipality.

Ahmet Kocadere 905322610237
Toper bey 905557324754

Municipality Arif Eker

Interior affairs Turkey

President Turkey

Fax Mayor Istanbul
0900 212 4552700

- Attract publicity to get attention for the problems. The problem is that Turkey is different from the Netherlands, and that the animal protectionists are frightened by the threads they get from the government, AIG, Biosav and animal protectionists who think of the complaints as an attack on the Turkish nation. Of course we will continue undiminished with generating financial support for our projects.

Met vriendelijke groeten,

Linda Taal
Stichting ActieZwerfhonden

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