Yesterday I got into a discussion on Facebook with friends who, like me, support the rescue of street dogs. There were comments made about the way expats behave towards dogs. For example, some of them decide they don't like living here after all, return to their home country, and just dump their pets on the streets to fend for themselves. I know it happens, but the point I made was that they are in the minority. They are the same people who wouldn't think twice about dumping a dog in their own country.
I have many expat friends in different areas who wouldn't dream of doing this. They are the same people who have integrated well into the Turkish culture, and care about the plight of animals here. They will rescue street dogs and care for them, but even if they don't they will go out and feed them on a regular basis.
One thing that constantly disturbs me is how people who come here for a holiday will feed cats and dogs during their stay, then of course when they return home, these animals are left confused and hungry. I have said many times, and will repeat it again in the hope that the message gets across. Please DO NOT feed dogs and cats individually if you can't take long term responsibility for them. By all means if you have scraps of food leave them in a bag next to the rubbish bins, so that they can find the food for themselves. Believe me...it's not a health hazard because the food will only be there for a matter of minutes before it's found.
There is also a lot of criticism of Turks in the way that they treat animals. There are sweeping generalisations about the cruelty they perpetrate. One thing that has to be understood, is that the Turkish attitude towards cats and dogs is totally different to that of Europeans and others. They see cats and dogs as vermin. They think they are dirty. They generally don't think it's right to have dogs or cats in your home. Those of us who are animal lovers, have to accept that not everyone feels the way that we do. But the majority of Turks are not cruel to animals. Of course there are those that are, but cruelty to animals exists in every country in the world, including those countries who keep dogs and cats as domestic pets and profess to be animal lovers.
There is a fear of dogs here amongst adults, and naturally this fear is instilled in their children. In every area where Mr A and I have lived, we do what we can to educate the children about dogs. We introduce them to our dogs, so that they can see there is nothing to be scared of. In this way they can be taught to respect and be kind to all dogs. We also put scraps by the bins and leave water out, and encourage our neighbours to do the same. And they are quite happy to do so...they just need a little encouragement.
In just three years in this village we have seen a marked difference in attitude. People see how we treat our dogs and they are less fearful.
Surviving winter is the most difficult time for the street animals. People in our village now allow dogs to shelter in their outhouses, because they are no longer afraid of them. And even if they will never accept them as domestic pets, they still feed them. Mr A regularly goes to a butcher in Milas and returns with several huge bags of scraps and bones and distributes them around the village. Others are beginning to do the same. In my opinion education is always the way forward.
The problem is a huge one. I have rescued and rehomed street dogs over the years, but I also accept that some dogs and cats just cannot be domesticated. Believe me I've tried on several occasions, but they continue to run away...back to the life they know and don't seem to want to change.
Karen Lowrie Wren of T.A.G.(Turkish Animal Group) does a wonderful job in rescuing and re-homing street dogs, all with the help of donations, fundraising, sponsorship, and a great deal of her own money. I will always support and publicise the work that she does, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.
Until the Turkish government accept that the only way to tackle this problem is for them to fund a mass neutering programme throughout the whole of the country, then the problem will only get worse.
In the meantime, most of us, expats and Turks alike, do what we can to make life for these animals a little easier.
At the same time however, we have to realise that this is a different country with a different culture, and at times we have to accept what we can't change.
If you are interested in the work that Karen does, and/or you want to help in any way, you can visit her website HERE