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Stray Dogs Campaign : A Neuter – Vaccinate Project Story from Turkey

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation (Stichting ActieZwerfhonden) has been conducting Neuter-Vaccinate- Return program in Turkey nearly for 10 years.  Erdek, Erzincan, Lüleburgaz, İğneada, Bandırma, Edincik, Kars, Kadriye are examples of where they have operated. Their last CNVR ( collect  neuter vaccinate return) project was in Ayvalık and Cunda. It had lasted until 2015 November, until suddenly they had a feeling that they are not welcome anymore.  Why? They don’t know and still waiting for an explanation from the municipality.

In Ayvalık, we have almost finished. We had a good relationship with the municipal vet and the mayor but one day before the last campaign was about to start we got a message that we were no longer welcome…..after having neutered (including Cunda Island) 1,274 cat and 1,915 dogs. We just were not allowed to continue the project and to finish it properly and separate as friends, leaving it to the municipal vet to keep the population under control. We spent a fortune on Ayvalık and if the last campaign isn’t done the project might be a failure instead of an example for Turkey. We did reach the breaking point of 70% of the bitches being neutered but Ayvalık is a holiday resort. During summer many people come to Ayvalık taking their unneutered dogs with them and leaving them roaming the streets and leaving them in Ayvalık once they return to their first homes. Because of that we feel its necessary to neuter more than 70% of the bitches and not just concentrate on bitches but also on males, if not the population will never be under control.

From December 2013 to 2015 November, in Ayvalık, Stray Dogs Foundation neutered or spayed 1752 dogs; in Cunda Island, they neutered 1274 cats and 163 dogs.

cunda-008

Now, their situation in Ayvalık is uncertain, they told that their presence is not welcome anymore, they are forced to leave Ayvalık without any explanation from the mayor.

They are afraid of the dog population will increase again, and inhumane methods will be in practice and both human and animal welfare will get worse.

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This foundation in Netherlands is dedicated to the welfare of stray animals, mostly to the dogs living in Turkey: Stray Dogs Campaign Foundation.  The Stray Dogs Campaign Foundation is established by Mrs. Linda Taal, after she had adopted a stray dog from Turkey.

Ayvalık is one of the projects, the foundation has supported up to now. It has started like this according to the report:

In 2013 StraydogsCampaign Foundation received a cry for help from HAYTAP, the Animal Rights Federation, in Turkey. The peninsula of Cunda was facing a feral cat problem. Many fertile cats populated the island and we (SdCF) were asked to spay them. Although SdCF focusses on dogs we couldn’t just ignore this feral cat problem

I have interviewed with Dear Linda Taal and Nathalie Klinge from StrayDogsCampaign Foundation about their experiences with Collect, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return (CNVR) programme.

BipolarPisi : What is stray dogs campaign? Is it a platform, is it an association? Who are the stakeholders?

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation: It’s a fundraising foundation, no stakeholders. We raise funds to pay for neutering and education campaigns in Turkey. And we support the SHKD forest shelter in Istanbul.

BipolarPisi: In the website, it is stated that this project was started in 2003, when you visited Turkey. Could you tell us about yourself, background, why you started this campaign in Turkey? There are other countries like Romania, Malta etc, why Turkey?

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation : Through the Internet we’ve adopted a Turkish dog from a shelter and discovered about the stray dog problem in Turkey and the bad situation in most shelters and then I felt I had to do something about it. I would not be able to solve the problem but could at least contribute to a solution. In Holland a few dogs per year are abandoned by their owners. They will be picked up, brought to a shelter and adopted or live their life in a shelter under reasonable circumstances. Adopting from a shelter is very common. The re-homing rate for dogs in The Netherlands is the second highest in the world. We have no stray dogs.

At first the foundation focused on supporting two private shelters in Istanbul. I thought re-homing could be part of the solution but there are enough organisations re-homing dogs and I felt help in Turkey, supporting the shelter was more important.

cunda-003

But the more I saw the more I realized the problem in Turkey was not that simple; far too many dogs in the streets, far too many dogs in shelters living in incredibly poor circumstances, and the re-homing rate was practically zero. Re-homing dogs abroad also couldn’t solve the problem but just give a happy life to a few dogs. “Removal and killing of dogs should never be considered as the most effective way of dealing with a problem of surplus dogs in the community: it has no effect whatsoever on the root cause of the problem.”

 Guidelines for Dog Population Management, W.H.O. Geneva 1990 (page 74). Weather you kill the dogs or imprison them; it has no effect on the number of free roaming dogs. The number of dogs always adapts to the carrying capacity of the environment. The remaining bitches will mate more often, have larger litters and the pups have better survival chances so the number of dogs will soon be as high as it was.

I started to read and inform myself and learned about collect, neuter, vaccinate and return (CNVR) and decided the foundation should focus on that.

We started neutering in other parts of Turkey in 2009.I focused on Turkey because in the beginning I didn’t know anything about stray animals and even thought it was just a problem in Turkey and third world countries. Soon I discovered there where many countries with the same problem but there were also many organisations working in these countries. Turkey was not that interested for re-homing organisations because the “import rules” for animals from Turkey are far more expensive and complicated than for countries within the EU. And as I mentioned: many charities already focus on re-homing, we do not re-home, we focus on solving the problem locally by CNVR (collect, neuter, vaccinate, return) , education and supporting a private shelter in Istanbul. 

That does not mean I am 100% against re-homing abroad but it should be done under strict regulation. We have two dogs from Turkey ourselves.

 

BipolarPisi : You have lots of knowledge about how to manage a TNR program. Are there people (municipalities) that request your assistance from different places of Turkey?

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation : We prefer not to use the term TNR (Trap Neuter and Release) on dogs. TNR is for cats. We use CNVR (Collect, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return). Many dogs are friendly to humans, they don’t need to be caught and trapped. We feed them, are friendly with them and a lead is enough to take them for surgery. Many free roaming dogs are community dogs fed by multiple animal lovers. A few days after the surgery we bring the dogs back to where we collected them, we return them. The term release might frighten citizens and mayors.

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Yes, we have been asked by other charities and municipalities across Turkey and also did campaigns in other places. Our aim is to neuter at least 70% of all female dogs (at that point the free roaming dog population will decrease) and to train local vets to the point they are able to control the population their selves. Then we can leave and move to another city or village. In Ayvalik we have almost finished. We had a good relationship with the municipal vet and the mayor but one day before the last campaign was about to start we got a message that we were no longer welcome…..after having neutered (including Cunda Island) 1,274 cat and 1,915 dogs. We just were  not allowed to continue the project and to finish it properly and separate as friends, leaving it to the municipal vet to keep the population under control. We spent a  fortune on Ayvalik and if the last campaign isn’t done the project might be a failure instead of an example for Turkey. We did reach the breaking point of 70% of the bitches being neutered but Ayvalık is a holiday resort. During summer many people come to Ayvalik taking their unneutered dogs with them and leaving them roaming the streets and leaving them in Ayvalik once they return to their first homes. Because of that we feel its necessary toneuter more than 70% of the bitches and not just concentrate on bitches but also on males, if not the population will never be under control. Then there is the problem of about 70 more unneutered bitches living on the garbage dump under the most terrible circumstances. These animals should be neutered and treated its inhumane the way they have to live.

BipolarPisi: Have you ever had CNVR ( collect, neuter, vaccinate, return ) experience before you initiated this program in Ayvalık?

Stray Dogs Campaign : Yes we have been working in many other cities and villages across Turkey. Please check: http://straydogscampaign.com/our-projects/catch-neuter-vaccinate-return

BipolarPisi :  There are many small TNR programs in Turkey. What do you suggest to the people that initiate those programs?

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation : It is very easy to fail in a CNVR project, it can be very fragile.

  1. I suggest to prepare yourself very thoroughly and talk to all the stakeholders. Many projects fail due to resistance by local vets, local animal lovers not aware of the solution and politicians changing their minds.
  2. You have to at least neuter 70% of all the female dogs to achieve a reduction in the free roaming dog population. Depending on the intensity of the intervention it can take a few years. So it is advisable to explain that very clearly to the local politicians and citizens.
  3. The counting of the dogs beforehand and monitoring the population. You have to proof your intervention actually works

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BipolarPisi : What should be the attitude or plan to make these TNR attempts sustainable?

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation : CNVR takes time. On the long term (10 years) CNVR is cheaper than catch and kill policies. Politicians should realise that. A surplus of free roaming dogs in the community cannot be solved in one term of a mayor. CNVR is s humane, cost-effective and structural solution.

BipolarPisi : What are the pitfalls of CNVR programs in Turkey? Could you compare the efforts in Turkey and other countries, if you could?

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation : Applicable to all CNVR projects across the globe:

  1.  obstruction local authorities by dog dumping, corruption, sabotage, bureaucracy, non-payment and short term thinking.
  2.  incompetent local hired staff by cruel dog handling (lack of compassion), theft, lack of discipline, lack of knowledge (dog ecology) or lack of skills.
  3.  problems with animal lovers like euthanasia debate, civil war between animal lovers, egos, dog hoarders, different opinions on the definition of dangerous dogs and definition of incurably ill dogs.
  4.  dog breeding.One of our board members (Nathalie) has worked in Romania and Bulgaria a lot and in several other countries. Despite the fact legislation is in place in Turkey, compared to other countries the Turkish initiatives have to deal with the constant mood swings of politicians and other stake holders. Gossip seems to dominate reality

BipolarPisi: What are your opinions about Dogs Trust, Jean Marching Institute etc? Could you share your experience about funding strategies, and also application processes?

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation : Dogs Trust is a huge charity organisation excellent in fundraising. However Dogs Trust doesn’t grant foreign charities which have to adapt to local circumstances and unable to work to Dogs Trusts framework. For instance, in Turkey dogs cannot be returned to their territory in less than 4 days which is quite usual in other countries. Dogs Trust doesn’t agree on such a long holding period after surgery and denies grants. Marchig Trust allowed us a grant several times.The Humane Society International allows grants to foreign initiatives.All grant givers have their own application procedures.

BipolarPisi : Could you tell how TNR programs were started in Europe? 

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation : CNVR programs have started in the U.S. and India. In India 50,000 human fatalities happened annually due to Rabies transmitted by dogs though dog bites. The majority of the scientific papers on dog population management comes from India and the U.S. In 1990 the WHO and WSPA created guidelines on how to decrease free roaming dog populations. It was scientifically proven birth control is the only way.How the programs started in Europe is unknown to me (Nathalie). Late ninetieths Robert Smith starting implementing spay/neuter in Istanbul and in 2003 in Romania.

BipolarPisi :  I have read this paper : “How Holland became free of Stray dogs” I’m also following pet historian blog. I wonder how dog population management has been conducted, and what other factor have been effective that the size of dog population remain less in European countries (except Romania, Balkan area etc) but more in Asia?

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation : The mentality of people towards animals is the same in Romania as it is in Turkey, same goes for the Balkan area. Its seems strange but all communistic countries are behind in animal welfare, maybe because the living standard of people in Western Europe is higher than in Eastern Europe. Its more easy to be good for n animal if you have enough money to feed your selves. We also have less kids in the streets than in Turkey and Romania. A municipal vet from Istanbul was in Holland together with the head of public health. I talked to them and the public health man said; believe me I really would like to help the dogs but where do I get the money  I even have not the money to save the kids from the street.

BipolarPisi :   What should we do to make these TNR efforts more effective ?
StrayDogsCampaign Foundation: All people in Turkey, including politicians, should recognize killing is NOT the solution to a surplus of free roaming dogs and THE PEOPLE are the source of the problem. Where people live, dogs live. CNVR programs can only be more effective if supported by politicians.

BipolarPisi : In your website, it is stated that neutering %70 of female dogs is enough for TNR programs. Is it based on wildlife population management programs? What is the scientific explanation? 

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation: Dogs population management is partly based on wildlife population management because dogs only survive in the proximity of humans.The scientific explanation can be found in numerous scientific papers.

  • Reece, J.F., 2007. Rabies in India: an ABC approach to combating the disease in street dogs. Vet. Rec. 161, 292–293.
  • Reece, J.F., Chawla, S.K., 2006. Control of rabies in Jaipur, India, by the sterilization and vaccination of neighbourhood dogs. Vet. Rec. 159,379–383.
  • Reece, J.F., Chawla, S.K., Hiby, E.F., Hiby, L.R., 2008. Fecundity and longevity of roaming dogs in Jaipur, India. BMC Vet. Res. 4, 6.
  • Totton, S.C., Wandeler, A.I., Gartley, C.J., Kachhawaha, S., Suman, M.,Ribble, C.S., Rosatte, R.C., McEwen, S.A., 2010a. Assessing reproductive patterns and disorders in free-ranging dogs in Jodhpur,India to optimize a population control program. Theriogenology 74,1115–1120.
  • Totton, S.C., Wandeler, A.I., Zinsstag, J., Bauch, C.T., Ribble, C.S., Rosatte,R.C., McEwen, S.A., 2010b. Stray dog population demographics in Jodhpur India following a population control/rabies vaccination program.Prev. Vet. Med. 97, 51–57.
  • Totton, S.C., Wandeler, A.I., Ribble, C.S., Rosatte, R.C., McEwen, S.A.,2011. Stray dog population health in Jodhpur, India in the wake of an animal birth control (ABC) program. Prev. Vet. Med.98,215–220.

BipolarPisi : You mention that your efforts in Ayvalık are interrupted. You are operating in Kütahya. What could you say about the situation?

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation : We are not operating in Kutahya we are just  helping with finances in emergency situations. The situation there is too many dogs, to little volunteers, too little people that see the necessity of TNR a mayor that is totally not interested a hand full o volunteers doing their utmost to improve the life of the strays probably not realizing that by feeding them and not neuter them the population will grow instead of diminish, because well fed animals are more likely to get bigger litter and the litter has more chance to survive, but living  between the starving animals its inhumane to not feed them but The best would be neuter them and keep on feeding them once they are neutered than the animals will have a good life.

BipolarPisi :What is the method you have used to count dogs?

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation : Walking the streets in a certain pattern and count the visible dogs.

BipolarPisi :What does science say about TNR projects?

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation : The scientific references can be found in the previous answer.

  • CNVR projects reduce free roaming dog populations.
    CNVR projects will reduce health risks for the human population.
  • CNVR projects are cheaper than catch and kill policies.
  • CNVR projects will create a healthier free roaming dog population, even when not all dogs are neutered.

BipolarPisi : Anything you would like to add…

StrayDogsCampaign Foundation :  Please keep up with your great work!Catching and killing dogs and imprisoning dogs for life is no solution to the problem. The huge shelter recently built in Istanbul is useless and a waste of public money. With a rehoming rate below 10 percent imprisoning dogs is inhumane but above all very very expensive. The number of free roaming dogs will never decrease. 

THANK YOU ! 🙂

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