Message from our President

Love of animals and the instinct to take care of them is not a passing whim or a pretension but a sincere commitment to the welfare of all creatures which share our world. Protecting animals is a manifestation of compassion, affection and mercy, demonstrating that the individual has internalized humanitarian values. These values are the essence of being a civilized individual.

Animals suffer just like people: they feel pain and suffer cold, hunger and thirst. Cats and dogs are so affectionate and are so loyal that there have been many instances of an animal stopping eating and drinking and losing the will to live when they lose their owners.

Animals have to live by the laws of nature, the larger fish swallowing up the smaller one, the hungry lion hunting down the antelope are the inevitable result of the laws of nature.

The real threat to animals comes not from the law of the jungle, but from humans killing and eradicating species.   Humans kill animals for their fur, skin, teeth, tusks and horns.  Man’s crude hunger for showing off by using ‘’luxury goods’’ have caused the crocodile and the seal to be the victims of their own skin, the elephant of its tusks, the rhinoceros of its horns, the fox and the tiger of their fur, the whale of its fat, and the list goes on…   Man has set traps for them causing them agony; man has taken a shot at almost every animal from birds to bears, from rabbits to gazelles - sometimes for fun calling it a sport, sometimes for financial gain. The animals became more and more helpless as man developed more and more deadly weapons.

Humans have regarded animals as having been created for two purposes: either as commercial items to be exploited, or as play things. Circuses, zoos, pet shops, animal experiment laboratories are horrific destinations for animals who have been snatched away from their natural habitat.

Animals have also been the victim of man’s desire to gamble. Dog fights, cock fights, bull fights and  bear baiting provide pleasure for humans, whilst the animals involved strive to do their best for what is asked of them at the cost of their lives.

Over time people who came to view these practices as inhuman started to raise their voice. In the 1820s and 1830s societies for the protection of animals started to emerge in different countries.

The proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights in Paris on 15 October 1978 confirmed that this was now a worldwide issue, and although the declaration did not mean that animals were now safe from man’s inhumanity, it highlighted very strongly that man had a moral obligation to protect the welfare of animals.

Many years before this declaration,  Islam had prescribed how man should treat animals and what the animals were entitled to. The Prophet Muhammed put it clearly: ‘’If a person kills without just cause a sparrow or even a being smaller than that he will have to account for himself to God. Animals can only be killed for food, to kill them for any other reason is a sin.’’ The Prophet had also forbidden forcing animals to fight each other, using animals as target practice and leaving them without food or water.

Coming centuries after the Prophet’s pronouncement, the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights also stresses these points: ‘’Any act unnecessarily involving the death of an animal, and any decision leading to such an act, constitutes a crime against life.’’

It proclaims that all animals have an equal right to exist and states that the rights of animals should be defended by law, just like those of human beings.

In a world where we see that everything is measured by material value, man will inevitably find all sorts of ways and means to gain more and no doubt some of these ways and means will target animals. We shall see an increase in the abuse of animals that we cannot imagine now, because animals are helpless, defenceless, unprotected beings open to abuse. And we see that when material gain is at issue, laws are lenient and even the precepts of religion are not always sufficient.

We shall of course continue with our fight for the protection of animals, to enable them to live a life that is their birth right. But only when man has reached a level of civilization based on humane principles will all animals be safe.

Birgül Rona

President of THKD

The Founding of THKD

Our Founder and the Birth of THKD

When the ship coming from the United States docked at Galata pier in Istanbul in 1902 it brought a remarkable woman to the shores of the city: Alice Manning, an American citizen, had arrived at Istanbul with her husband who was to teach at Robert College, a prestigious American college in the city.

On their way to their hotel Mrs. Manning was horried and deeply affected by the site of the large numbers of stray cats and dogs in a pitiful state. She had never seen anything like that. What was she going to do? If she stayed in Istanbul, how would she cope with this heart-wrenching situation day in and day out?

At their hotel she did not even touch her luggage; she thought they should perhaps go back. She did not sleep all night, and as dawn was breaking over the city she had made up her mind: No...she was not going back to the States. To escape from all this for her own peace of mind, to turn her back on these pitiful creatures having seen what life was like for them would be a terrible betrayal. She would instead stay and help these animals as much as she could until the end of her life.

Indeed when Alice Manning died in Istanbul in 1947, the 45 years she spent in this city were full of the memories of the relentless struggles she had engaged in for the street animals of this country, Turkey.

As THKD we keep alive the memory of this unique person, our legendary founder, a true pioneer for the wellbeing of animals, Alice Manning. Our deep admiration and affection for her sustain us in continuing her mission and remaining true to her principles.

The Founding of THKD 

Known today as Türkiye Hayvanları Koruma Derneği (THKD – Turkish Society for the Protection of Animals) our Society goes back to the times of the Ottoman Empire. THKD is a direct continuation of İstanbul Himaye-i Hayvanat Cemiyeti which was established in 1912 by the civil and military notables of the Ottoman Empire together with Alice Manning, our founder, and her group of friends.

What prompted the Ottoman statesmen to this was the banishment of Istanbul’s street dogs to an uninhabited island near the city and the outrage this caused. The spectacle of packs of dogs roaming the streets was considered not fitting to the attempts at modernizing the image of the city as the capital of the Empire, and in 1910 the dogs were loaded onto barges and sent off to the island known as Hayırsız Ada (Sivri Ada) and left there to die of starvation. There was no water on the island either. It is said that the cries of the animals could be heard from the shores of Istanbul, and people tried to sail there and rescue the animals. This cruel act was also condemned widely by the Western press. The government of the day realised that a charity needed to be set up to work towards the humane treatment of dogs. Alice Manning and her friends, some of whom were teachers and students at Robert College, had already been working towards that aim. They had formed the very first voluntary group to help animals, “Arms of Mercy” in 1908.  Prominent Ottoman statesmen of the day joined forces with Alice Manning and her circle, and in 1912 İstanbul Himaye-i Hayvanat Cemiyeti – Istanbul Society for the Protection of Animals was founded.

The members of the executive committee of the Society included prominent statesmen of the day some of whom had even risen to the office of the Grand Vizier (Prime Minister): the President was Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha, Vice-presidents were Prince Said Halim Pasha and İsmail Cenani Bey. The Treasurer was an Englishman, Sir Henry Babington Smith who was the director of the Ottoman National Bank. The Governor as well as the Mayor of Istanbul, Foreign Minister Asım Bey and War Minister Mahmut Şevket Pasha were amongst the members of the Executive Committee. Prominent members of the Ottoman Imperial family and ambassadors of various countrıes and their wives were honorary members of the Society. Lady Lowther, the wife of Sir Gerard Lowther, the British Ambassador in Istanbul, played a prominent role in the efforts to set up the charity.

The Balkan war of 1912-1913, then the Fırst World War in 1914 followed by Turkey’s War of Independence (1919-1923) limited the effectiveness of the Society. However with the declaration of the Republic of Turkey a new era began for the country, and the Society was re-constituted under the name of Himaye-i Hayvanat Cemiyeti, Turkish Society for the Protection of Animals, and gained its recognized legal status on 6 March 1924 becoming one of the very first charities of the newly founded Turkish Republic. In April 1950, with a special dispensation of the Council of Ministers, the Society was given the status of “a charity that serves and benefits Turkey as a whole”, and in 1973, in recognition of its services, the Society was permitted to use the word Türkiye as part of its title. The compound Himaye-i hayvanat was an old Ottoman construction meaning “protection of animals” and the word cemiyet was from Arabic meaning in Turkish dernek. In line with the language reform in Turkey the title of the Society thus became Türkiye Hayvanları Koruma Derneği.

This is the history of THKD starting with the seeds sown by Alice Manning in 1908 as Arms of Mercy and over the years transforming into the Turkish Society for the Protection of Animals.

The founding principle of THKD is to enable all species of animals to live their lives under conditions that will never be detrimental to their well-being.

Our Successes

Right from its inception THKD has been a pressure group working to bring about changes in people’s attitudes to animals and to exert pressure on government to bring in legislation to prevent cruelty to and maltreatment of animals: even back in 1908 the Arms of Mercy group, the kernel of THKD, was opposing the chaining up of dogs and the docking of their tails and ears.   They also opposed the transport of livestock under inhumane conditions and stressed the need for neutering to inhibit the uncontrolled increase of street animals.

As a direct consequence of  THKD’s constant pressure on the government to act, in 1936 the killing of birds by any means in parkland and in domestic gardens was prohibited and became a punishable crime. If the perpetrators were minors, their parents were liable to penalties. Presenting a draft bill to parliament which would eventually become  Animal Protection Laws THKD later prepared an updated and extended draft bill to include farm animals in this law. In 1948,1950 and 1966 laws came into force banning dogfighting, cockfighting, camel wrestling, bullfighting, and bear dancing in the streets.  These were major achievements for THKD.

Here is a letter from the Ministry of Agriculture to THKD in reply to a petition that was presented to the Ministry. The letter is dated 21 October 1947.

To the President of the Turkish Society for the Protection of Animals

Your petition regarding the banning of camel wrestling and bull and cockfighting has been forwarded to us by the Ministry of the Interior. Considering that these practices can give rise to negative propaganda about our country and also that they are extremely detrimental to the improved breeding of these animals we have on 13 March 1948 written to the Ministry of the Interior that local administrations should not allow such practices to be performed.

Minister of Agriculture pp E.Erim

Clauses 521 and 577 of the Penal Code and the Municipal Policing Bylaws regarding the protection of animals thus became law in Turkey thanks to the work of THKD.

In 1952, for the first time in Turkey, THKD sent veterinarians and inspectors on board the cargo ships in the Black Sea ports to ensure that livestock was being transported under humane conditions, that they were being fed and watered regularly and that they could be treated if not well.

Between 1950 and 1960 THKD organized competitions between carriage drivers on the Princes’ Islands near Istanbul and presented prizes to the winners. The aim of these competitions was to encourage carriage drivers to look after their horses better. In more recent times with the cooperation of WSPA - World Society for the Protection of Animals (now known as World Animal Protection), THKD installed an automatic drinking system for carriage horses on the island and dug and constructed a well for carriage drivers to draw water with buckets for the cleaning of their animals and carriages. THKD also built canopies to provide shaded areas at the terminus where the carriages would congregate when they were waiting between trips, so as to protect the horses from the harsh sun. We have also sent veterinarians to the islands to vaccinate the animals in the municipal shelter there and treat them for internal and external parasites.

In 1993, once again in collaboration with WSPA, THKD embarked on a Turkey-wide project called LIBEARTY – FREEDOM to the BEARS.  The Ministries of Forestry and Tourism were also involved in the project, as certain legal procedures were required.  The bears forced to perform various acts of dancing by their handlers were to be taken away from their ‘’owners’’; their treatment, any surgical intervention that was required and their rehabilitation were to be carried out by the Veterinary Science Faculty of Uludağ University in Bursa. The aim of the project was to put an end to bears being forced to perform dancing acts, to stop the atrocious crime of killing mother bears in order to get the cubs to train them as ‘‘dancing bears’’, subjecting them to terrible ordeals in the process of such training.

WSPA had built and equipped a facility in Bursa-Gedikli where the bears would be kept during their treatment and rehabilitation. Meanwhile, WSPA started the construction of a bear sanctuary where the confiscated cubs and adult bears whose rehabilitation had been completed could spend the rest of their lives in peace. The place designated for this purpose by the Ministry of Forestry was within Yeniköy Forest in Karacabey near Bursa. Work on the bear sanctuary was completed in a short time, and in 1997 the one-time dancing bears of Istanbul who had been nursed back to health and normal behavior in the facility in Görüklü started to be transferred to the Sanctuary in Karacabey.

The bear sanctuary was now ready to bring freedom to any captive bear anywhere in Turkey, so THKD embarked on a country-wide bear hunt. The media had been very successful in highlighting the plight of captive bears, the public was following the bear news very closely and was sensitive to the issue. They would alert us to any incident of a dancing bear they themselves saw or had heard about and we would immediately go out to seize the bears. The Chairperson of THKD’s Antalya branch Sevda Kıraç personally commandeered the confiscation of a number of bears in her region and elsewhere, ignoring the danger of confrontations with the owners of the bears, often with the help of the local gendarmery force. These bears were all brought to Karacabey, and when THKD and WSPA handed over the management of the Bear Sanctuary to the Ministry of Forestry at the end of 2000, there were 52 rescued cubs and bears of all ages enjoying their freedom in this natural environment. Our success was recognized internationally, and in the Animals 2000 conference in London in the same year this was declared ‘’the most successful animal rescue and protection project ever in the world’’. The unimaginable success of the project was the eradication of a centuries-old practice which had become a tradition; it had taken only three years to achieve this success and this primitive and most cruel practice of forcing animals to dance was buried in history with the unflinching fight THKD put up against its perpetrators.

From its foundation until October 2005 THKD dedicated its resources to the free treatment, surgical operations and neutering of street animals and pets of individuals whose financial circumstances would not allow them to take their animals to private clinics. Our animal ambulances collected animals injured in road accidents in often far-flung parts of the city. In 2004 the number of animals receiving treatment in our clinic was over 22,000. But then the Ministry of Agriculture brought in new legal regulations which forbade animal charities and foundations from providing clinical assistance, on the grounds that this was unfair competition with private veterinary clinics. In line with the directives of the Ministry that street animals would be treated in municipal clinics and that pets should be taken to private clinics by their owners, THKD sadly had to close down its clinic.

Despite this we try to continue to help animals in need of medical treatment and dedicated people looking after street animals but who have now suddenly found themselves totally without support in their work to care for these animals. We arrange for sick and injured animals to be treated, with the costs being met by THKD.

Our Aims

The founding principle of THKD is to enable all species of animals to live their lives under conditions that will never be detrimental to their well-being. In line with this principle our aims are:

To treat sick and wounded stray animals

To provide a safe place for disabled animals to live

To engage in widespread neutering campaigns with the slogan “Born to die - let’s prevent this”

To make financial contributions to the neutering cost of animals whose owners cannot afford the fees charged

To go to the aid of stray animals injured in road accidents

To set up vaccination campaigns against rabies and provide internal and external parasite prevention health aid in rural areas

To organize activities which engender a love of animals in children and adults

To present proposals to authorities formulating legal measures that can be put in place to prevent cruelty to animals

To get the public to understand that street animals and wild animals deserve as much love and care as animals kept as pets

To raise awareness of the need to treat farm animals with respect

To alert authorities when we become aware of animal abuse

To help create an environment in the country where animals can live without fear of humans and where humans fulfill their obligations towards animals

Projects Completed

These are some of our completed projects several of which have been internationally recognized as THKD’s successes.

LIBEARTY - Freedom for the Bears project. This was a project carried out in cooperation with WSPA - World Society for the Protection of Animals (now known as World Animal Protection) and aimed at rescuing and rehabilitating the dancing bears. Within four years we were able to eradicate and outlaw this hideous practice throughout Turkey. It is regarded internationally as one of the most successful worldwide animal protection projects.

PET Respect was another project coordinated with WSPA to neuter neutering and register stray animals. It was a country wide project to persuade officials, including veterinarians working at national and municipal level to play a leading role. The necessary medical and surgical equipment was provided by THKD.

Providing watering facilities for the carriage horses on the Princes’ Islands near Istanbul, as water is in short supply on these islands. Disused wells were rehabilitated and given over to the use of carriage drivers.

Providing shaded rest areas for donkeys used to carry the visitors round the islands.

Arranging training sessions for the islands’ carriage drivers to educate them to look after their animals properly and keep them healthy. This has been conducted with the participation of animal welfare specialists from the British based equine charity Brooke Hospital.

Our rescue work in the rubbish dumps of Kemerburgaz in Istanbul – the rubbish dumps were scheduled to close down, and THKD embarked on a series of rescue operations of the puppies and adult dogs that had made the area their homes. The dogs we collected from there during 1998 and 1999 were first treated and rehabilitated in our clinics and then rehomed. And from 2000 onwards those that could not be rehomed were taken to our shelter in Karacabey. In 1999 the number of dogs we rescued from the rubbish dumps was over 90.

Supplying food and providing treatment on a day to day basis in the aftermath of the 1999 earthquake for injured animals, both farm animals and stray animals and pets which had lost their owners and had become homeless. We also provided basic health care and food and clothing to people whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake.

THKD’s work on the Donkey Island in the Aegean Sea – this small island where there were donkeys was uninhabited, and we received reports that there were concerns about their well-being. As there were no means of transport we hired a boat and sent a team of THKD veterinary surgeons to the island. They were satisfied that the animals were in good health and that there were sufficient resources of food and water on the island. However, it was noted that their numbers would increase over the years.

Free neutering campaigns for dogs and cats regardless of whether they are strays or pets with costs paid by THKD.

Providing a life-long shelter for disabled animals which could not otherwise survive. We achieved this by building our shelter in Karacabey in Bursa province.


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