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Animal activists criticize draft law involving capture, potential euthanasia of stray animals

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Animal protection organizations have criticized a draft law involving the capture and possible euthanasia of stray animals, arguing that prioritizing effective spaying and neutering is the most humane and efficient approach to curbing their population, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Wednesday.

In recent years the topic of rounding up stray animals, mainly dogs, has become increasingly prominent in Turkey. The issue resurfaced a few days ago, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan convening his ministers and urging action. In addition to capturing stray animals, the suggestion to euthanize unadopted ones was also discussed in the meeting for the draft law.

Zülal Kalkandelen, a columnist for the Cumhuriyet daily and an animal rights activist, said in an article in September that a commission was established to address the issue of stray animals, involving representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change.

Kalkandelen said that commission, which lacked a member from the Turkish Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA), has discussed proposals including establishing shelters on vacant land, conducting spaying and neutering and putting down unhealthy animals.

In July the İstanbul Governor’s Office sent a letter regarding stray dogs to 39 districts, requesting that the animals be taken to rehabilitation centers, undergo spaying or neutering and be returned to their original locations once they are healthy again.

Whenever this issue of stray animals arises, animal lovers and animal protection associations emphasize that effective spaying and neutering and rehabilitation are the key solutions.

Veterinary Doctors Association President Gülay Ertürk on Wednesday told Gazete Duvar that one of the reasons why spaying and neutering are not preferred is the cost.

Ertürk said municipalities are required to allocate resources for the establishment of animal shelters and the implementation of rehabilitation procedures for three years, according to the revised animal protection law of 2021. She added that municipalities are not complying with this requirement.

Ertürk also recalled that municipalities with a population of between 25,000 and 75,000 must establish a shelter by the end of 2024, while those with a population exceeding 75,000 were required to do so by the end of 2022, as stipulated by the law. Noting that most municipalities have not fulfilled their obligations, she warned that the uncontrolled increase in the stray animal population will persist if necessary measures are not taken.

She further said stray animals should be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and released back to their original locations as the law stipulates and that those who are too dangerous to live on the street or not suitable for living on the street should be kept in foster homes determined by animal protection volunteers.

Haydar Özkan from the Confederation of Animals Right to Live (HAYKONFED) also spoke to Gazete Duvar, saying that 1,100 out of 1,394 municipalities in Turkey do not have animal shelters and those that do have them do not have an effective program for neutering and spaying.

“The only solution is a sustainable spaying and neutering campaign with the participation of all municipalities,” he added.

Calling the draft law a “massacre under the name of putting down [animals],” Özkan said the municipalities that do not spay or neuter stray animals and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which does not enforce the relevant law, are at fault.

Meanwhile, Ömer Çelik, spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), on Wednesday said at a press conference that the draft law on stray animals is planned to be submitted to parliament “next week or the week after.”

The killing of stray animals is commonplace in Turkey, with dogs being particular targets. In most cases, perpetrators are people disturbed by their barking or attacks on their livestock or other animals.

Stray dogs have been targeted even more frequently since a fourth-grader, Tunahan Yılmaz (10), in Ankara was attacked by a pack of dogs and sustained serious injuries.

In addition to its poor record on human rights, the country also has a poor record on the protection of animal rights. There are frequent reports about the mass killing of stray dogs by municipalities, while animal cruelty is not punished by law.

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