Graphic photos and videos showing the bodies of stray dogs killed by the Turkish authorities and dumped into public landfills have been circulating online since November 24, 2022. Animal rights organisations have reported that city officials are responsible for this cruelty.
The mistreatment of stray dogs may be illegal in Turkey, but it is sadly common in this country estimated to have a population of stray dogs that numbers more than 10 million.
In late 2021, after reports that several children had been killed by stray dogs, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on city governments to take care of “dangerous stray dogs” by placing them in dedicated facilities.
“The primary responsibility lies with city governments”
An animal protection law adopted in 2004 requires city governments to take care of stray dogs, which is defined as rounding them up, treating them and vaccinating them before releasing them in the street.
But what is actually happening on the ground seems to be very different, as proved by the videos circulating on social media. Footage posted on November 24 shows a man beating a dog with a shovel in an animal shelter in the town of Konya, located in central Turkey. People have been responding with shock and horror to this video.
Domic Dyer is a member of the Born Free Foundation, an international organisation that closely follows the plight of Turkey’s stray dogs:
It’s not an isolated incident. Dogs are killed like that all the time, both by citizens and city governments. They are beaten to death and poisoned, often in terrible conditions.
Videos posted online by an animal rights organisation show the bodies of stray dogs dumped into city landfills. The posts concluded that the bodies were likely gathered and dumped there by city officials.
Ağrı sokaklarında köpek bulamadık. Bakın o köpekler nereden çıktı!
— Paw Guards | Pati Koruyucuları (@PawGuardsTr) December 18, 2022
Paw Guards, a association that promotes the protection of stray animals, has a network of more than 30,000 volunteers and activists across Turkey. On December 18, the association posted images on Twitter showing the bodies of dogs in the landfill in Ağrı, a small community in eastern Turkey.
Burası Kars’ın çöplüğü, dün buraya geldik ve burada çöpe atılan köpek yoktu ve şimdi belediye aracının kulaklarında küpe olan köpekleri burada çöpe attığını gördük. Bu durmalı. #karstakatliamvar pic.twitter.com/EdfCUNqwPH
— devran naz (@devnazofficial) December 12, 2022
This video was posted on Twitter on December 12, 2022 by @devnazofficial, a Turkish vlogger who promotes animal rights. In the video, you can see a vehicle that says “Kars Belediyesi” (Meaning the city of Kars in Turkish) that is parked right next to a landfill containing dog bodies.
“Sometimes they are killed because people believe they are unclean”
It isn’t just the authorities killing stray dogs in Turkey, says Dominic Dyer:
Stray dogs are most often killed by people in rural zones, who are conservative and not used to pets. They consider stray dogs to be unclean and feel very uncomfortable with strays living in the streets.
Someone also sent our team this horrible video, taken in early December 2022, which shows a man strangling a stray dog in the middle of the street in Sariyer, located near Istanbul. You can hear two different people yelling for him to let the dog go. The police eventually arrested the man in question.
The Turkish government blocked access to Havrita, a mobile app that features a map showing where there are large concentrations of stray dogs, on August 23, 2022 after several animal rights organisations called for its closure. These groups believe that people were using the app to track down and kill stray animals.
Sibel Akin, the president of Pets in Turkey, a Turkish organisation that works to protect the rights of abandoned animals says that only a mass sterilisation campaign would help with the overpopulation of stray dogs in Turkey:
“A stray dog will only survive maximum five years in the streets in any case. So if there is a mass vaccination and sterilisation campaign at a national level, this problem will be resolved in a few years.”
This is an online petition launched in early December 2022 condemning the “inhuman” treatment of stray dogs. The hashtag #boycottTurkey started circulating online, with people calling to boycott Turkey as a tourist destination.