The towns and cities of Turkey are crowded with homeless dogs and cats. Some estimates put the number of stray dogs alone at several million. Many of the dogs are mixed breeds, so called mutts, while others are descended from the classic working dog of Turkey, the Anatolian Shepherd.
In recent years, with various canine fads coming into style, pet-shops have set up industrial-sized breeding facilities to produce large numbers of puppy breeds to meet the whims of the buyers. Sadly, older breeds, once their value has declined, are often dumped on the streets. And the cute puppies, often purchased impulsively, can outgrow their welcome: they become too large, or too rambunctious, or too time-consuming for their buyers. Tragically, the capricious owners then dump the dog onto the street or even abandon them along roadways or in forests.
Once abandoned, the dogs are left to face injuries and disease without aid. Weather conditions are extreme in Turkey, with hot, dry summers and freezing sub-zero winters. The vast majority of dogs cannot survive without some human support to provide food, water, and minimal shelter. In the forests, food sources are meager and during the arid months, there is no drinking water. Many dogs die from starvation and untreated injuries or illnesses. Hostile people sometimes attack the dogs and there are cases where they’ve been shot, poisoned, or even raped. When the dogs appear on roads searching for food and human contact, cars and trucks are a grave threat, and many animals are slaughtered.
In some cities and municipalities, officials place some of the street dogs in shelters. However, most remain strays, living on the streets. Some cities also round up dogs to take to vet clinics where they are spayed/neutered and given vaccines for rabies. A tag is then stapled to their ear and they are released back on the streets.
However, if there are complaints regarding the dogs in any neighborhood, then the city will often collect the dogs and dump them into the forests. There are also numerous accounts in social media describing city officials poisoning the dogs right on the streets, to the horror of witnesses.
In Turkey, the treatment of street dogs often depends on the quality of life in their neighborhoods. In areas where people are better educated and moderately prosperous, the local street dogs and cats are often treated as outdoor pets. However, in many poor and chaotic neighborhoods, the strays are ignored or worse.
Istanbul, for example, is an old city but its boundaries are still expanding. Zoning and planning are non-existent, and there is constant construction work. Forests in the way are chopped down and green spaces, now almost gone, are replaced with concrete buildings, such as apartments or even skyscrapers. This relentless growth leaves stray animals trapped with no exit.
And the dumping of dogs in streets, forests, and landfills continues at a rapid rate. When puppies are born in these bleak environments, they generally die in a few months. There are generous people, mainly volunteers, who organize aid efforts through social media. The volunteers work together to feed and care for as many of these dogs as they can. However, these support efforts are never enough to provide food, water, medical care, and shelter for all the dogs.
In light of this dismal situation, we are trying to help save as many animals as possible. While some dogs are too feral or suspicious to bring into homes, many individuals are ideal candidates to return to homes as domestic pets. Some breeds, particularly the golden retrievers, are ill-suited to survive the harsh conditions in the streets and forests.
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