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Animal rights activists protest gov’t order to clear streets of stray dogs

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Hundreds of animal rights activists gathered in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Sunday to demonstrate against a recent government order to collect stray dogs and put them in animal shelters, Turkish media outlets reported.

The demonstration, supported by 36 rights groups, took place in Ulus. Activists claim that municipalities do not have sufficient means to care for strays, so collecting them from the streets is equal to a death sentence for them.

A press statement released by the group said out of 1,389 municipalities, 1,200 don’t have an animal shelter and that conditions are dire for animals in those that do. The statement said animals suffer from hunger and disease in these shelters, where they are “held hostage.”

In late December Turkey’s Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change issued a circular to all 81 Turkish provinces, ordering the collection of stray dogs upon a decision by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The circular called for “dangerous” stray dogs to be collected by the relevant authorities and kept in animal shelters for “rehabilitation.” The circular was issued after a call from Erdoğan, who said shelters were the perfect home for Turkey’s stray dogs, telling mayors across the country to take action.

Erdoğan’s order came shortly after repeated pit bull attacks left some children injured.

The activists said municipalities across the country have been collecting tens of thousands of stray dogs from the streets although they can accommodate only 300-400 dogs.

“Where are these animals? It’s a vicious cycle — they kill these animals after they let them breed,” said the statement.

According to the activists, the price for the pit bull attacks, which took place when they were with their owners, are paid by hundreds of thousands of strays.

The Turkish Union of Bar Associations (TBB) was also among the critics of the government decision on stray dogs. The union condemned the government for its decision and said the  dogs don’t belong in shelters but that their natural environment has been under the occupation of humans for a long time.

In addition to its poor record on human rights, Turkey 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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