House of slaughtered dogs revive animal cruelty debate in Turkey
Ayşe Arman ISTANBUL
Warning: Images may disturb some readersA house in Istanbul where several dogs and cats were found slaughtered is likely to revive the debate on animal cruelty in Turkey, as other recent cases have prompted activists to call for tighter laws to prevent impunity for culprits.
The house, discovered following an inspection by legal members of the Istanbul Bar Association’s Animals Right Commission, was full of animal cadavers savagely killed by the people who lived at the house.
Özen Baydoğan, member of the animal commission, said they saw a number of puppies and kittens with their throats slit as they went to inspect the house.
“Then we opened the refrigerator. We were horrified! There were several animal cadavers, meat cut in pieces and even a frozen cat. There were also graves in the garden. There were even dead animals inside wardrobes,” Baydoğan said.
She explained that the commission members first saw the pictures of the house, located in the dense European suburb of Gaziosmanpaşa, posted on Facebook, before contacting people living at the same apartment of the individual who slaughtered the animals.
“Those who showed us the house said it was their flat mate who did all this. But all the puppies and the dead cadaver of the cat are still there. It’s as if this seemed normal to them,” she said.
Baydoğan also said police and prosecutors were tackling the issue too slowly. “Our complaint file at the police post has still not been transferred to the prosecutor’s office,” she said.
Although Turkey is dominated by intolerance toward different segments of society, the general care shown especially toward stray dogs and cats is a characteristic of local life in neighborhoods. But an increasing number of cases of violence against such animals, who often have to live in an unfriendly urban environment, have been reported in recent months.
Animals considered as ‘goods’ under law
A woman who was captured on security cameras kicking to death stray kittens was caught last August by police in Istanbul. Another man in Eskişehir was captured beating to death a stray dog.
However, lawyers have stressed that the current Turkish legislation does not contain any measures for people who torture animals, unless they own them.
Baydoğan said efforts by the commission sometimes pay off and that they are able to bring people to justice by – ironically for a living creature – charging them with “damage to property.”
“In our country unfortunately animals are not considered as ‘living’ but as 'goods.' For this reason, animal rape has never been considered a crime until to date, for example. So we are trying to get results with insufficient laws,” she said.
According to Baydoğan, one of the clearest crimes that needs to be codified is “animal torture.”
“You don’t get any punishment at all. If only someone comes and proves that [the tortured animal] is his dog, you stand in court for damaging property. Then you get off with a fine,” she said.
Activists are now pushing for tighter, wider and better defined legislation, noting that defining animals as living creatures is the first step. Although many humans in Turkey are still waiting for legislation that will protect their rights, the increase in sensitivity on abuses against animals is proving to be one stop on the way to fighting abuses of all kinds.