Rescuing Lives

Until 1 November 2005 when the THKD clinic had to be closed down following a decree by the government preventing animal charities from having clinics, people used to bring sick and injured animals to us or we would sent our ambulance to the scene of an accident and pick up the injured animal. Our veterinarians would then check the animals and perform the appropriate medical procedure. When they recovered the animals would be discharged. But there were also animals which although returned to full health had lost a limb in the process, such as a leg, an eye (sometimes both eyes) or a wing. These were cats, dogs and birds which could not survive if released as they did not have any one to care for them. So they continued to be in our care in our headquarters in Istanbul.

This was not an ideal environment for them, and when we set up our shelter in 2000 in Karacabey in Bursa province, we were able to give them a more comfortable life there without their having to live in cages. And the birds had their aviary. The shelter also became home for animals which for different reasons could not be returned to an urban environment.

In Karacabey we get tip-offs to help sick and injured animals in Bursa and towns and villages in the neighbourhood. Many animals injured in road accidents just lie there by the side of the road or manage to crawl away into a sheltered space. In such cases we take them to veterinary clinics in Bursa. After their recovery they are neutered, and if they have no one who claims them they continue to live in our shelter.

We want to share the stories and pictures of some of them with you; you’ll find these in the Gallery section of our web site.

Inevitably during these 17 years some of these loved ones died, but we did not let them leave the shelter. They are now in a special section of the shelter, with their names on their tombstones, resting peacefully underneath the ground where they had so happily been running around.

Pali, Pinçi. Eviş, Şef, Panni, Cindy, Garip, Kontes, Rosso, Bebecan, Maviş, Geymuş...and all of you; thank you for the happiness you gave us – you’ll always be with us.

Treating Animals

We have a very large number of stray animals in the streets, and this presents insurmountable problems for animal charities. The numbers vary depending on the different regions of the country, but overall we are talking of hundreds of thousands: not having an owner who can protect them and take care of them when they become sick or injured, as they often do, results in these animals suffering pain throughout what life they have. Animal charities and individuals who cannot be indifferent to such suffering do their best to help them.

As THKD we believe that neutering is absolutely necessary to put an end to this circle of suffering. Under our free neutering campaign slogan “Let them not be born to die” we are trying to prevent tens of thousands of kittens and puppies from dying on the streets enduring unimaginable suffering and starvation. When we had our own clinic we never charged for neutering cats and dogs brought to us even if they had owners; we find making a distinction between a “stray” and a “pet with an owner” unacceptable when it comes to neutering. People may give a home to a street animal or often a kitten or a puppy, and look after it as best they can, but may not have the means of paying for a neutering operation. If the owner cannot afford the cost of neutering, the “pet” will in most cases be abandoned on to the streets or at best shut away somewhere in the house. For that reason, we never charged for neutering animals brought to our clinic. However, some private veterinary clinics in the vicinity complained this was unfair competition and campaigned for a change in legislation which led to the closing down of all clinics run by all animal charities.

Since then we have been continuing with our free neutering campaigns through veterinary clinics with which we have been working closely. These campaigns are held several times during the year and enable people looking after street animals or a stray they might have adopted as a pet to have them neutered free of charge.

We also undertake free treatment of injured animals through similar arrangements with clinics where we have complete trust in the veterinary surgeons’ skills and standards. And if as a result of an injury an animal has become disabled to an extent that it cannot live on the streets we give them a home in our shelter.

Road accidents are the major cause of injury to animals; every day brings alerts of accidents where an animal has been hit by a vehicle. In these incidents the driver almost never stops it is organizations like THKD who come to the rescue of the injured animals when alerted by witnesses to the accident.

Inevitably all this work is very costly for THKD; the care and feeding of hundreds of animals we have in the shelter and their periodic health checks and vaccinations, the countless cases of injured and pregnant animals brought to the shelter, responding to incidents of cruelty cases reported to us hold us back from expanding our work as extensively as we would like to. We are grateful for any help extended to us in our work to combat the suffering of animals.


Neutering is a surgical procedure to stop animals breeding. Not only cats and dogs, but also animals in the wild and work animals like horses and donkeys can be neutered.

All around us in Turkey we see kittens and puppies born on the streets and almost condemned to die or to suffer appallingly. They die after being run over on the roads or from starvation or the unsuitable conditions of where they are. Those which don’t share this fate struggle to survive against all odds. To think that it may be possible to find homes for these animals would be the height of optimism; even pedigree cat and dogs are abandoned on the streets.

Faced with this reality our Society runs regular campaigns under the slogan “Let them not be born to die”.

Neutering not only prevents breeding but it enhances the quality of the animals’ lives and enables them to lead a healthier and safer life:

Neutered male animals do not chase after the females without any disregard to their own safety. They do not get into fights or get bitten and scratched to the same extent as unneutered ones, and so they avoid infections. They do not catch infectious diseases either from infected females and then infect other females in turn. Female animals obtain similar benefits from neutering.

Unneutered animals secrete very strong and unpleasant smells and emit loud and continuous noises when on heat. If they are being kept as pets sometimes their owners let them go when they are in such a state or the animals manage to escape their homes. The fate of many of these animals is heart-breaking.

Unneutered animals attract the wrath of people whose ground floor windows, doorways and cars they spray with their secretions.

The fights that erupt between unneutered packs of dogs result in people getting scared and complaining to the municipal authorities, who are then obliged to act in ways which are not always beneficial to the animals.

Neutered animals continue to lead their lives peacefully and do not draw hostile reactions from humans.

Despite all these well-established and proven facts the veterinary units of some municipalities refuse to neuter male cats and dogs. We as THKD cannot understand this attitude and do our best to counter it.

It is also necessary to neuter cats and dogs kept as pets. When these animals cannot mate they become unhappy, restless, agitated and sometimes aggressive.  To give hormone injections to alleviate these symptoms is seriously detrimental to the health of the animals. Some develop tumours in their reproductive organs.

Combatting Violence Against Animals

As we progress through 2018 we have been hearing of more and more incidents of unimaginable cruelty against animals: torture, wilful cruelty, maiming and killing.  The media very frequently show pictures of puppies mutilated (paws, ears, tails cut off) or strangled by wire or rope, and similar torture inflicted on cats, incidents where it appears they have been used for target practice.

The penalties prescribed by law for these crimes are unfortunately quite light and most certainly need to be increased. All the animal charities in Turkey are united and campaign for more severe sentencing for such crimes. Another problem is that it is often not possible to identify the perpetrators, as such crimes do not have any witnesses. Security cameras could be of help, but they are generally found in main shopping areas rather than the back streets and isolated open spaces where animals can be lured. And we must not forget that however severe the sentencing can be, this does not address the principal problem: the psychological reasons behind the crimes. Whilst sentencing should be commensurate with the crime, there should be more focus on ways and means of identifying and treating the psychological reasons which impel individuals to perpetrate such unspeakable acts.                                      

Education and Raising Awareness

In trying to find ways of bringing long-term solutions to stop animal suffering, we know we have to raise people’s awareness of the problems facing animals and of what humans can do to make a better world where animals and humans can live in harmony. Education is key to raising awareness and ensuring that the younger generations will live in a society more tolerant and sensitive to the needs of all creatures.

What THKD has been doing on a regular basis since the beginning of the 1990s is an example of how education can raise awareness for both young people and adults.  These are some of the projects we have launched:

We have been working with the Ministry of National Education to organise animal protection societies in schools and ensuring that the students who join these societies get plenty of information and training about the well-being and protection of animals. If they become aware of the issues, they can spread the message to the wider student body.

We have encouraged primary and secondary schools to organize animal-themed short story and drawing/painting/photography competitions.

We have arranged for talks and discussion sessions in schools, with question and answer sessions on how to keep pets, how best to help stray animals in the streets and the precautions that need to be taken in doing this, animal behaviour and wild life  conservation.  Parents are invited and encouraged to attend these events.

We print leaflets and posters to promote love and care for animals and distribute these widely in the community.

We acquire educational films as donations from animal protection societies abroad and show these in schools and to the general public in animal-themed exhibitions in municipal halls. These visual displays centre round promoting affection, compassion and respect for animals.

We have been working to raise awareness amongst the adult population in rural areas.  To achieve this, we have been in contact with the veterinary departments of local municipalities, supplying them with leaflets and posters to be distributed in local agricultural shows. This printed material is about caring for farm animals, but also includes the care of cats and dogs, as they are very much part of rural life as working animals as well as pets; dogs protecting and herding livestock, cats keeping down rodents and thereby safeguarding grain and other foodstuffs.

People who are provided with correct information about animal life and welfare and have absorbed it are more likely to treat animals with due care and respect.  That means they will never be cruel to them and will never tolerate abuse of animals by others.

Protest Activities

Civil society organizations play an important role as pressure groups to represent the interests of society as a whole, making representations to government and organising protests and demonstrations.   We at THKD have taken part in many such demonstrations organized by other civil society organizations, condemning cruelty and violence against animals:

Joining a demonstration in boats on the shores of Istanbul protesting against mass killings of stray dogs by municipal authorities in the late 1990s.

Protesting in front of different municipal headquarters to highlight the dire state of the animal shelters run by them.

Taking part in demonstrations to draw attention to the appalling treatment of carriage horses on the Princes’ Islands near Istanbul and calling for a ban on horse-drawn carriages there.

Joining protest activities against the use of fur in the fashion industry.

We organized two large-scale demonstrations in 2012 in cooperation with the organization Animals Rights Activists (HAYVIST), which attracted large-scale participation by other civil society groups and the public. These were widely reported by the media and achieved the result we had been seeking. At the time the Forestry and Waterworks Ministry had drafted a bill to amend the Protection of Animals Act, and this was coming up for debate in the Turkish Grand National Assembly (parliament). We had to stop this going ahead, because it had become clear that the proposed amendments would amount to a death warrant for animals. THKD and HAYVIST did meticulous planning and called upon all animal activists to gather in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on 30 September 2012. Those who could not come to Istanbul were asked to stage a protest demonstration in their own localities at the same time as the main demonstration in Taksim. The newspaper headlines that appeared the following day showed how sensitive and receptive the media had become to animal rights issues:

Hürriyet - Tens of thousands marched for humane treatment of animals.   Turkey on the march: Listen to this cry!

Milliyet – Humans and Animals United:  Marching against the bill!

Posta – Mass Protest against the death warrant!  Hands off my four-legged friends!  The bill has brought out thousands on to the streets!

The successful result of our protests became clear a few days later on 4 October: it was announced that the then Prime Minister, now President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had asked the parliamentary commission that had drafted the bill to reassess it.

As it became clear that the bill was now under scrutiny, we wanted to reinforce the impact of our initial demonstration and staged a second one on 21 October. Again it drew huge support and strong headlines:

Milliyet – Once again in Taksim, to make sure no one forgets!

Hürriyet – Neuter, Vaccinate and Let Live! Call to withdraw the bill. Thousands of animal lovers back on the streets.  “No to the mass murder law!”

Posta – We don’t want a mass murder law!

Aydınlık – No to the death law for animals!

Haber Türk – Animal Activists out in city squares again yesterday!

As a result, the initial proposals never found their way to becoming law.

Today, thanks to concerted action by civil society organizations, extensive reporting of cruelty and abuse incidents by the press and developing public awareness we now see that politicians of all parties are taking animals rights issues far more seriously. During the June 2018 presidential election campaign, all the major candidates said they would be supporting animal rights legislation, and they all had their pictures taken with animals. We shall have to wait and see if their words will be translated into action in the coming months; if not we are all prepared to go back on to the streets to remind them of their promises.


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