Smuggled animals seized by Turkish customs to be handed over to animal rights federation
Zeynep Bilgehan – ISTANBUL
Before a policy on the protection of animals was updated, animals that were caught at Turkish customs were held in rooms provided by authorities. But many would die there before the tender time came, a HAYTAP worker said.
“Cats and dogs would die in coops. But lately, they’ve been getting placed in animal rights federations’ accommodations,” said Zuhal Arslan, a HAYTAP fieldworker.
“After the animals are caught, I receive a call and come meet them to take them to a veterinarian. I look after them until auctions are held. Sometimes they stay with me for six months, because auction dates tend to be uncertain,” Arslan added.
Just in 2017 more than 38,000 animals were caught by Turkish customs officials.
According to Turkish laws, an individual can bring two pets or 10 aquarium fish at most when entering the country. To bring in more, a trade permit is required, or else the animals get seized as “smuggled property.”
Under Turkish law animals are considered “property” and not living beings. Activists say that before the policy changed animals were left to their fate, likening them to smuggled cellphones seized and left unclaimed at customs.
The smugglers, mostly coming from Moldova, Bulgaria, Hungary and Armenia, breed the animals for around $20-30 and sell them for $2,000 upon arrival, HAYTAP President Ahmet Kemal Şenpolat said.
“These people who work for around $50 a month are used as carriers. They bring in animals with them in shopping bags just like they bring cellphones,” he added.
Pet smuggling has become a growing problem in Turkey.
On March 7, a Turkish lawyer applied to authorities to cancel a tender procedure that aimed to sell 22 smuggled puppies from Bulgaria that were seized by Turkish authorities.
The lawyer, Sedat Vural, wrote his formal letter of complaint to the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office, to be handed to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office in the northwestern province of Edirne. Selling animals through tenders was “against the law, social conscious, human dignity and ethical values,” his letter said, online news outlet Duvar had reported.
Vural filed the complaint after media outlets on March 5 announced that Turkish customs on Jan. 21 had seized a total of 22 puppies at the Kapıkule Border Gate in Edirne in a vehicle with a Bulgarian license. The puppies have been put temporarily under the care of HAYTAP until the planned tender date.