Dog owners are the problem
Turkey has had an Animal Protection Law since 2004 and the implementation of the law came into being in 2007.
As in many countries, a law doesn’t necessarily mean the problem is sorted out. Everyone knows that stray dog problems exist all over Turkey, but Fethiye has gone several steps further than everywhere else in Turkey to try to resolve this problem.
When I first came to live in Turkey in 2000, after living in Europe for 40 years, it was a big shock for me that dogs were living and giving birth on the streets, without any health controls. My experience in Europe was that vaccinating and neutering each dog was the only solution.
I approached the Fethiye Municipality and the then newly-elected Mayor, Mr. Bechet Saatci. I had his full support so he leased 43 hectares of land at Catalarik from the Forestry Dept. where we set up an Animal Centre which became operational in April 2000. We had an important and succesful start to a catching, vaccinating, neutering and returning program for street animals.
I approached the Turkish Government in Ankara the same year to try to convince them to undertake a neutering program all over Turkey. It took 3 years of frequent meetings with the Government to convince them to bring in the new law. At last, in 2004 the law was passed and 3 years later in 2007 the implementation of the law was passed. I was very pleased that Neuter and Return was accepted as part of the Law.
The responsibilities for running this program was given to all the Municipalities throughout Turkey. Since then the reality has unfortunately proven that not every Municipality has taken their responsibility as seriously as the Fethiye Municipality.
Turkish Government Health Ministry statistics show that in 2010 over 200,000 people have been bitten by dogs and 2 people have died as a result of Rabies infection.
Over the past few years, Fethiye has noticed that the neutering program has been successful as there are hardly any street dogs anymore. The life expectancy of a street dog is up to 5/7 years and by being neutered and vaccinated the Fethiye street dogs have lived a happy and healthy life and no longer having unwanted litters.
During the past year we have experienced a number of privately owned and abandoned dogs being brought to our Centre. At present we have 60 adult dogs and 30 puppies living in the Centre and we hope to find new owners for them.
Turkish dog owners are not happy to neuter their dogs as they believe this takes away their sex-life and considers this to be a sin! Yet they don’t consider it a sin to abandon the litters that result from un-neutered dogs and expect the Centre to take care of them.
Some of these owners are quite happy to let their dog roam free during the day and they return home in the evening when their owner returns from work. During the day the dog can copulate and make unwanted pregnancies as mentioned.
The Animal Protection Law specifically outlines the responsibilities of dog owners towards their pets, to keep them under control by walking them on a leash and not letting them run free and out of their control.
Considering this section of the law together with the problems we are having, I approached the Fethiye Municipality to find a way to make dog owners recognise and accept their responsibilities.
During one of their monthly meetings the Municipality decided that dogs running free without their owners would be caught and taken to the Centre. The dog owner is required to pay a fine of 170 TL before he can collect his dog from the Centre. Unfortunately some dog owners do not want to pay the fine so their dog remains in the Centre.
Everyone has to know that we are collecting every dog that is running free without its owner.
This action by the Fethiye Municipality is the first of its kind in all of Turkey and I am very proud that it is taking these responsibilities.
Fethiye Animal Centre