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The deeply wooded, rural area around Tavşanli in south eastern Turkey hides a terrible secret; here, in an area of about 20-square miles (50-square kilometers), thousands of dogs scavenge on the rotting carcasses of chickens dumped by poultry egg factories. The dogs have no shelter or veterinary care and are engaged in a daily struggle for survival that is so desperate that they sometimes feed on their own puppies.
Local authorities who, by law, must provide shelter, food and medical care for the dogs, do not do so. There are two municipal feeding stations for the dogs but these stations never have food in them. And the only source of water are streams polluted by effluent from local factories.
NFA discovered that local authorities have been routinely killing the dogs of Tavşanli; as many as 14,000 dogs have been slaughtered in 20 years. When an animal lover exposed the scandal, the authorities took him to court, alleging he killed dogs to create bad publicity for Turkey.
NFA also discovered that the poultry farms around Tavşanli inflict unimaginable cruelty on chickens −and in the process breaching Turkey’s health laws. We are lobbying 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 organizations, 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 them 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.
The deeply wooded, rural area around Tavşanli in south eastern Turkey hides a terrible secret.