If you have traveled or if you live in Turkey, particularly in Istanbul, you must have noticed the large number of cats and dogs roaming the streets. However, there are no reliable statistics of the number of strays in Turkey. In 2006, the SKHD, the Turkish Society for the Protection of Stray Animals, estimated there were up to 1,000 stray dogs in the Beşiktaş area of Istanbul alone.
The Turkish Forestry and Water Works Ministry in Ankara has recently put forward a bill to modify the country’s current animal protection laws. The draft introduces major measures such as the creation of natural habitat parks on the outskirts of cities to relocate stray animals when shelters run out of space, the limitation of the number of animals owned by each household and the criminalisation of animal abuse, which is today only condemned by an administrative fine.
Even if the ministry affirms that “the purpose of the law is to ensure a comfortable life for animals and that they be treated well […]" the draft has provoked protests all over the country in recent weeks. Severely criticised by animal rights activists and animal lovers, three major marches have been organised in Istanbul and in a dozen other cities since the announcement of the draft amendments. The protesters accuse the authorities of condemning the strays to death, as they will be relocated out of cities away from human care. On one march in Istanbul, a sign read, “our strays are the colours of our streets”, underlining the important place strays have in Turkish daily urban life.