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Gone To The Dogs? Or Doggone Progress?

 Untitled Document The following is from the September/October 2003 issue of The Guide Magazine

If, as Mahatma Gandhi said, "a nation can be judged by the way it treats its animals," then Turkey might fall somewhere in the middle, between winner and loser. Stray dogs and cats have been a part of daily life in Turkey since Ottoman times and probably even earlier. And, containing the ever-growing number of animals, on the streets of burgeoning cities such as Istanbul, has been a challenge for the authorities and citizens for at least as long.

"In exchange for living off of the things we throw out, garbage, food, and bones, street dogs can become loyal friends as well as a good security source, alarming the people around them to intruders. With the human population explosion of big cities, there was more waste, and the dogs bred more because the environment could support more. It's that simple, though the containment solution is not easy," says John Adler, a professional dog trainer and author of an upcoming book about canine behavior and care.

One man who has visibly tipped the scales toward a winning solution to the city's animal welfare and population issues is Robert Smith, founder and chairman of SHKD (Sahipsiz Hayvanları Koruma Derneği, or, Society for the Protection of Stray Animals). "Since the days of the early Sultans the city authorities in Istanbul have periodically tried, and persistently failed to eradicate the stray dog population by extermination campaigns. They have never succeeded because the few dogs, which inevitably escape soon reproduce exponentially and after a year or two the exterminators are back to square one," says Smith, who has himself adopted nine stray dogs as house pets in Istanbul.

SHKD's motto and method for stemming the animal population explosion on the streets of Istanbul, is "Neuter, Vaccinate, Let Live." The neuter-and-release method is in accordance with the policy advocated by the World Health Organization and the World Society for the Protection of Animals, whose studies show that it solves the problem permanently.

Using his own personal funds, contributions from Koçbank and funding from several municipalities, Smith has been running SHKD since 1998. SHKD veterinarians also work with EHDKD (Evsiz Hayvanları ve Doğayı Koruma Derneği, or Society for the Protection of Nature and Homeless Animals) to carry out the neuter and release program. To date, SHKD has neutered and released over 8,000 dogs throughout Istanbul. Despite the organization's mea-surable success with this method, however, very few municipalities in Istanbul have followed suit and many continue to implement inhumane, expensive and ultimately futile methods of stemming the city's homeless animal population. One rationale the Turkish authorities have used for exterminating street animals is the threat of rabies, which, according to SHKD, actually occurs very rarely.

"We thought this would be an example to other local authorities, and a motivation for rehabilitation of stray animals and eradicating rabies. We, unfortunately, were mistaken," says Smith, who also runs similar programs in Campina and Oradea, Romania.

With funding running out and lack of participation from the Turkish government, Smith's efforts, these days, are primarily focused on re-housing several hundred homeless dogs from the soon-to-close SHKD shelter in Istanbul. Failure to find homes for these dogs means SHKD will be forced to euthanize them.

In the meantime, other organizations are also working to improve Turkey's animal welfare track record. "Ever since I settled in Istanbul - for almost 10 years - I've felt forced to deal with the animal problems. In the beginning, I had hoped to find an organization to help to achieve something. There were a few around. Yes, they needed money. No, they didn't need any volunteer work!" says Yuli Weston, who co-founded SHKD in the late 90's. Weston also founded, and is currently president of, SED (Sosyal Sorumluluk Eğitim Derneği, or Society for the Education of Social Responsibilities) whose aim is to promote the humane treatment of animals in Turkey by mobilizing authorities and teaching the country's youth.

"SED was established to encourage people to open their homes and hearts to the homeless cats and dogs. We are securing the humane treatment of the animals. This, we think is an important achievement," says Weston who has two dogs and two cats at home as well as around 40 cats who live outdoors.

SED programs and activities, several of which are sponsored by pet food company, Purina, have included an environmental protection project for school children, a painting competition and special adoption campaigns, including the international "Adopt-a-thon 2003." Among other activities, SED also produces and disseminates free pet care brochures and educational material for schools.

While SED encourages stray dog and cat adoption, Weston cautions hopeful pet owners not to just pick an animal off the street without having befriended it. She also recommends seeking advice from professionals before bringing home a pet. SED also makes experts available for free pet care consultation.

"The key to a happy, well-adjusted dog is socialization with people and other animals," says John Adler, who became a dog trainer by breeding and training Greenland Huskies as sled dogs in the Alaskan Bush and in the Rocky Mountains. "And, soci-alization is like a muscle: if it is not used, it atrophies. A dog who is anti social and wants to attack, in most cases, suffers from under-soci-alization," Adler says.

This may help explain why one rarely hears of street dogs attacking humans. They live among us, are accustomed to us and are essentially dependent on humans for their survival. Although, as long as animals can't speak for themselves or run for political office, we may never really know how the nation should be judged.

SHKD's motto and method for stemming the animal population explosion on the streets of Istanbul, is "Neuter, Vaccinate, Let Live."

Information
EHDKD (Evsiz Hayvanları ve Doğayı Koruma Derneği)
(Society for the Protection of Nature and Homeless Animals)
Kocataş Mahallesi Kılıçpınar Caddesi Sariyer
Tel: (0212) 271 77 17
Fax: (0212) 287 06 66
Email: [email protected]

SED (Sosyal Sorumluluk Eğitim Derneği)
Tel: (0212) 267 31 37
Fax: (0212) 266 28 94
Mobile: (0532) 314 82 38 (Yuli Weston)
Email: [email protected]
www.sed-tr.org

SHKD (Sahipsiz Hayvanları Koruma Derneği)
(Society for the Protection of Stray Animals)
Tel: (0212) 265 77 32-35
Fax: (0212) 322 18 20
Email: [email protected]
www.shkd.org

John Adler
Tel: (0212) 251-9043
Email: [email protected]




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The Shores of the Golden Horn
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