The deeply wooded, rural area around Tavşanli in south eastern Turkey hides a terrible secret. Here, in an area of about 19 square kilometres, thousands of dogs scavenge the rotting carcasses of chickens dumped by poultry farmers. The dogs have no shelter or veterinary care and are engaged in a daily struggle for survival that is so desperate they sometimes feed on their own puppies.
The deeply wooded, rural area around Tavşanli in south eastern Turkey hides a terrible secret. Here, in an area of about 19 square kilometres, thousands of dogs scavenge the rotting carcasses of chickens dumped by poultry farmers. The dogs have no shelter or veterinary care and are engaged in a daily struggle for survival made worse by drinking from polluted steams, their only source of water.
PAL’s sister organisation, Network for Animals, has done sterling work by bringing this ghastly state of affairs to the attention of the world. But the situation is far worse than originally thought. NFA recently discovered that local authorities have been routinely killing the dogs of Tavşanli; as many as 14 000 dogs have been slaughtered in 20 years.
NFA has also discovered that the poultry farms around Tavşanli inflict unimaginable cruelty on chickens − in the process breaching Turkey’s health laws.
PAL is lobbying the government of Turkey to address the dog crisis and bring criminal chicken farmers to book. PAL is in contact with the Minister of the Environment who has promised to investigate the levels of toxins in the water that the dogs are drinking. PAL representatives are also meeting officials in the Ministry of Forestry, to discuss its responsibility for the area in which the dogs live. PAL is fully committed to what could be a lengthy campaign for better conditions for the dogs and chickens of Tavşanli.
PAL finds itself at the start of a lengthy campaign. A petition to the Turkish government has been ignored and the Turkish embassy in London has so far refused to meet with PAL representatives. But PAL will find a way to lobby the government of Turkey to address the dog crisis and bring criminal chicken farmers to book.
What the law says
Turkish law is unambiguous when it comes to animal welfare. The purpose of the Animal Protection Law no. 5199 of 2004 is “to ensure that animals are afforded a comfortable life and receive good and proper treatment, to protect them in the best manner possible from the infliction of pain, suffering and torture and to prevent all types of cruel treatment.”
But, in view of the desperate situation of the dogs of Tavşanli and the abhorrent farming practices that have been documented in some of the chicken farms in south eastern Turkey, there is a huge gap between what the law says and what the situation is on the ground in Turkey.
A culture of dog abandonment
According to animal welfare organisations, there is a high incidence of dog abandonment in Turkey. Pets are often bought on impulse and frequently as gifts. But when cute little puppies grow into large dogs that need space, exercise and long-term care, many families simply abandon their pets to the streets or forests. These animals become distressed and many starve to death as they wait in vain for their owners to retrieve them. Many abandoned dogs are pure breeds, like golden retrievers, that are temperamentally unfit to survive on the streets or in the wild.
Estimates of the numbers of street dogs in Istanbul alone are between 70 000 and 150 000 animals.
PAL’s immediate task is to address the terrible situation in Tavşanli by lobbying the government of Turkey to abide by its own animal welfare laws. But in its engagements with Turkish authorities, PAL will do everything it can to persuade the government that a comprehensive spay and neuter programme is the only way to stop the cruelty and desperation of places like Tavşanli.