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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Caring for Canines as a Community

Anatolian Shepherd mix in Alacati, Turkey

It's been awhile since our last post.  We have been out of the country on vacation for the past several weeks traveling throughout Turkey and Greece.  During our travels, I was surprised to see how many dogs were roaming the cities and villages, especially in the bustling metropolis of Istanbul.  Everywhere we went there were dogs lounging in cafes, peacefully meandering about the streets, and being fawned over by tourists and locals alike.  Most, if not all, seemed to be remarkably healthy, groomed, and socially well-adjusted.  This is in stark contrast to what we see here in the United States, so I decided to learn more about the dogs of Turkey and how they differ from the dogs living in the U.S.

Neighborhood dog in Alacati, Turkey
He joined us in the cafe to hang out

Here in the United States, we have around 13,600 animal shelters.  Of which, about 7.9 million animals enter each year and approximately 2.7 million are euthanized (  These numbers are staggering and create a polarizing issue here at home.

In Turkey, there are very few animal shelters due to infrastructure and economic challenges.  This results in a high number of free-roaming dogs; which could cause major health and safety concerns…or at least one would think.  In Istanbul, it is estimated that there are approximately 150,000 stray dogs roaming the streets and living peacefully among their human counterparts (

So, what is different about these Turkish dogs?

A few years ago, rabies was a big problem among free-roaming dogs and the government instituted regulations requiring cities and villages to address the issue.  As a result, there has been a major effort to spay, neuter and vaccinate all stray dogs.  This is evidenced by ear tags and collars on nearly every dog you see.  This initiative has drastically reduced the number of reported rabies infections and allowed dogs to live a healthier life.

Cesme Peninsula, Turkey

In addition to the spay/neuter/vaccinate initiative, culture plays a large role in how dogs exist in the community.  Many Turkish citizens enjoy having the free-roaming dogs and care for them as a neighborhood.  We saw several dogs that seemed to have multiple "owners" as we would see shop keepers brushing, feeding, and caring for their canine friends.  Turkish society is also against euthanasia as a method of "population control" for otherwise, healthy animals.

Sunbathing in front of the Blue Mosque

Receiving some love from a tourist

Back to lounging
It is hard to say what the best resolution is for caring for all of the animals in our world.  I am inspired and warmed to see the relationship between man and dog in Turkey and perhaps we could learn a little from their approach.


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