Pit Bull Attack on Four-Year-Old Sparks Stray Animal Debate in Turkey Global Voices Français

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Image from Pixabay. A stray dog ​​behind fences.

The story of a 4-year-old girl who was attacked by two off-leash pit bulls in Turkey’s Gaziantep province on December 22 has shocked many in the country, prompting the owner of the two dogs to undergo the most severe punishments. But citizens were even more surprised when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke out on the issue a few days later, further stoking the controversy. Speaking Dec. 25 in Ankara, the president called on all municipalities across the country to round up stray dogs and send them to shelters. The president also demanded that pet owners he called “white turks– a term used to identify secular, Western and mostly left-leaning people – be careful with their pets.

Many pet owners expressed their frustration on social media platforms, chastising the president for his words.

Will this sweet white rabbit make me a white Turk?

It is not because they live in the street that we cannot condemn animals to death.

We are a family that has been living with a dog for about a year now. Would you believe it if I told you that I suspect the next line is going to be us. The child in the photo is called Sugar. 1.5 years. He is not aware that he has made us white Turks. And we hope that one day we can forget this nightmare.

Writing for The Independent, journalist Borzou Daragahi wrote: “Having defined dog ownership as a sign of cultural identity, Mr Erdoğan has now confessed to adopting an anti-canine platform, and the pro-dog media -governments have followed his lead, calling for compensation. without stray animals. After Erdoğan’s speech in Ankara, many municipalities have started collecting stray dogs from the streets.

Public outcry was quick, especially because the pit bulls that brutally attacked the girl had an owner and weren’t strays. Only a handful of shelters in Turkey provide adequate services for stray dogs.

“Although Erdoğan sees shelters as clean and safe environments,” this is almost never the case. Photos and videos frequently shared by animal rights activists reveal the heinous conditions animals are forced to live in. In many cases, animals die of starvation and disease in tiny, filthy cages, while at other times municipal workers kill them as soon as they pick them up. of the street,” reports Gazete Duvar.

In an interview with The Independent, Mine Vural, animal rights activist and veterinary technician in Istanbul, said: “In general in Turkey, shelters are trauma and death camps for animals.”

Others, like lawyer Hacer Gizem Karataş of the Animal Rights Monitoring Committee (HAKİM), have said that sending stray animals to shelters amounts to slaughter.

With Erdogan’s order, the dogs are retrieved. We do not know where they take them, in what conditions they will live. There is no infrastructure to take care of the approximately 7 million wanderers, what they call refuges, it is imaginary. These are the people who came to pick up stray dogs this morning who were sleeping at the parl. We have to wake up.

Turkey’s animal protection policy

Turkey adopted its first animal protection bill in 2004. At the time, it legitimate the capture, sterilization, vaccination, return (CNVR) method. The law project banned the killing of dogs on the loose, except “in cases specified in the Animal Health and Inspection Act 3285”. Euthanasia was prohibited unless the dogs suffered of “incurable illnesses and conditions such as terminal illnesses”.

The local municipalities were charge caring for street dogs by taking them to community-run shelters where the dogs have been spayed, vaccinated, rehabilitated and implanted with a digital chip on their ears, giving them an ID number for tracking.

In 2012, the ruling Justice and Development Party offers legislation “to remove stray animals from the streets and place them in sanctuaries outside towns and cities”. The bill was deposit after mass protests. For many, the proposed legal document was reminding policies of 1910 when Sultan Mehmed V sent thousands of stray dogs from Istanbul to a nearby island to starve to death in an effort to “Westernize” the city just before the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

In 2018, after winning the presidential election, Erdogand pledged to strengthen animal protection laws. Finally, in 2021, the Turkish parliament approved a new animal rights bill. The law banned the sale of all cats and dogs in pet stores, classifying them as “living things” rather than commodities, and made animal abuse punishable by up to four years in prison. Under the new law, pit bull terriers, Tosas and other dog breeds considered dangerous were banned from breeding and sale. Those found guilty of breaking the law would face fines. The law also required pet owners to register their pets with digital IDs. On December 7, 2021, the Animal Welfare Bill was amended requiring owners of breeds classified as “dangerous” to sterilize them and register them with authorities by January 14, 2022, Daily Sabah reported.

Meanwhile, the campaign calling to protect street animals — #SokakHayvanlarıSahipsizDeğil (#StreetAnimalsAreNotUnclaimed) – continues to gain support. It is normal in Turkey to see people taking care of street animals by feeding them and building them houses in the streets. Some of these street animals have their own statues, while others have become popular mascots for local municipalities. And there are at least two documentaries, “Kedi” and “Stray”, depicting the life of street animals in the country.

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