I first came to Turkey in 1980 and was always upset by the sight of frightened dogs wandering the streets and of their dead bodies littering Istanbul's roads. However I only became actively involved with stray dogs in 1996 when my company, Futura Tekstil, moved to new premises in Beylikduzu. There were several stray dogs living in and around our new factory compound. Like any responsible factory owner I of course took these dogs to a vet, had them vaccinated, neutered and treated and instructed our employees to feed them. Unfortunately one of our dogs, Sunny, was too heavily pregnant to be aborted and gave birth to 4 puppies. (Sunny and her 2 surviving puppies now live at my house near Sapanca. The two other puppies and one of the fathers, Korsan, died recently – Korsan at the ripe old age for a Rottweiler of 13 years).
It started to dawn on me that if every factory owner in Istanbul, every business proprietor, every bekci of blocks of flats, every administrator of 'sites', followed my example and neutered and cared for his local stray dogs, the street dog problem in Istanbul would soon be solved. This realisation motivated me to found SHKD in 1998.
SHKD's aim therefore is to implement "Neuter & Return" in Istanbul and surrounding areas as a solution to the city's stray dog problem. Having first made donations to other animal welfare groups I realized that these groups had no overall strategy.
I first visited many international animal welfare charities and the World Health Organization in order to study the dog problem and how to solve it. I was amazed to discover that no Turkish politicians and no senior officials had apparently studied the problem, or if they had, they certainly had not done anything about it.
Since at least Ottoman times the authorities in Istanbul have been trying to rid the city of stray dogs by poisoning, by removing them to Hayirsiz island to starve to death, by shooting them and by even more hideous methods of extermination. Still the city is full of dogs. Still you see their dead bodies on Turkish roads. Still they cause road accidents.
Isn't it high time for a re-think ?
"Neuter & Return" seemed so obvious and logical to me that I naively expected the municipalities of Istanbul to embrace it if SHKD showed them the way, by implementing it in certain areas near our shelter in Gokturk. We soon however discovered that officials and politicians are usually too disinterested or too prejudiced against dogs to do anything other than blindly and sporadically continue killing.
12 years later, despite neutering and vaccinating over 20,000 dogs in Istanbul, despite many visits to mayors and politicians, and despite the heroic efforts of Perihan Agnelli of F.H.D.D. in Fethiye who has been tenaciously lobbying in Ankara on behalf of "Neuter & Return", and despite the Animal Protection Law that was passed in 2004 which also obliges municipalities to apply "Neuter and Return" , still the implementation is far from being correct and effective.
"Neuter & Return", as SHKD has demonstrated in Gokturk and many other suburbs and villages around Istanbul, has to be implemented in the manner of a military campaign and the trust of animal lovers has to be won, so that they voluntarily bring their dogs to clinics for free neutering and vaccination, rather than hiding them from us, as they do at the moment from municipal death squads. The current practice of municipalities catching dogs and dumping them in other areas must also be stopped. Individual municipalities cannot solve the problem on their own; it must be solved by the Buyuksehir Belediye on an Istanbul-wide scale, with coordinated collection, neutering, vaccination and return of dogs. Hence our motto:
Director of SHKD