Puppy killing stirs outrage in Turkey as politicians vouch for new animal rights law
One last look to humanity... (Photos: Doğan News Agency)
The horrible killing of a puppy has caused outrage in Turkey, with politicians voicing support for a new law to prevent violence against stray animals, while an animal rights organization has called on authorities to find those responsible for the incident.
A puppy was found on June 13 by passersby in a wooded area in the Sapanca district of the western province of Sakarya, fighting for its life as four of its feet had been cut off.
Locals hospitalized the dog, which succumbed to its injuries two days later, despite an emergency operation in Istanbul.
The operator of a heavy duty vehicle working in the area was detained, announced Sakarya Chief Prosecutor Lütfi Dursun on June 16. Following his testimony, the operator was arrested by a court order on June 17 on charges of killing the dog, Doğan News Agency reported.
Dr. Berktuğ Çiftçi, who operated on the dog, said its paws had been cut off by an axe or a similar man-made tool.
The puppy’s death triggered public outrage as thousands of social media users called on authorities to find and punish the suspected assailant.
Local police, the Sapanca Municipality and Sakarya Metropolitan Municipality all mobilized forces to identify the person.
“A so-called human has caused the pain and the death of this puppy. We will do everything to find him,” Stray Animals Society (SOHAYKO) chairman Yasin Yılmaz tweeted on June 15.
Sakarya Governor İrfan Balkanlıoğlu announced on June 16 that it was not yet clear whether the incident was the result of a deliberate attack against the animal or the result of an accident.
“Our initial findings suggested a heavy duty vehicle could have chopped off the dog’s feet. Even if the driver did not see the dog, we will still do what is necessary, because he should have been sure that there were no living beings around when he was working on the construction. We are still investigating the issue,” the governor said.
Meanwhile, several animal lovers have announced they would award whoever helped authorities to identify the suspected assailant responsible for the puppy’s death with monetary prizes.
Turkish songwriter Sinan Akçıl said he would pay 50,000 Turkish Liras ($10,500) and Turkish composer Ozan Çolakoğlu said he would pay 10,000 liras ($2,100) to anyone who identifies the suspect.
Politicians condemn ‘atrocity’
Turkish politicians have also intervened, with several of them calling for more severe punishments in cases of violence against stray animals.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on June 16 vowed to boost animal protection laws in the country. “Protecting animals is not only a task, but also part of our belief, our humanity. Animals are not a commodity, but a living being,” Erdoğan said in a series of tweets.
Erdoğan also said a new ministerial bill for animal rights would be prioritized following the June 24 elections.
“In 2004, we passed the Animal Protection Act [No. 5199], the first independent law to protect animals. We will also prioritize the government’s draft, which contains new sanctions on animal rights, in the new period,” he said.
“I condemn barbarians who have killed a living being this way. The first job of parliament when it resumes work will be to pass a new law, which stipulates jail sentences up to 10.5 years for such incidents,” the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) MP Lütfiye Selva Çam tweeted on June 16.
Çam stressed that the bill, which also stipulates jail sentences up to two years for those who make animals fight each other, would abolish the legal distinction between stray animals and animals with owners.
Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın also tweeted on June 16, condemning the incident and calling for the passing of the new law.
“The person who has committed this atrocity will not be allowed to get away with it. Shame on you!” said main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) presidential candidate Muharrem İnce in a tweet.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chair Devlet Bahçeli, on the other hand, vowed to improve Turkey’s Animal Protection Law and also to include crimes against animals in Turkish Penal Law.
“I just cannot forget the photo [of that puppy]. We will punish anyone who has killed an animal or a human being,” Bahçeli tweeted on June 16.
‘A landmark change of perspective’
The new government bill was sent to the parliament in April, proposing animals in Turkey “are not property,” in a landmark change of perspective in Turkish law.
Those who dare to torture animals will receive four months to three years in prison according to the new bill.
If the perpetrator violates the freedoms of multiple animals in the same instance, his or her sentence will be increased by one and a half times, rising from six months to four-and-a-half years in jail, according to the draft.
The legal status of animals has been a much debated topic in Turkey but is still not set in stone.
Numerous news reports have surfaced over the years of stories where animals have been tortured, tormented or killed but the perpetrator left with minor penalties.
For example, in August 2017, a man who killed a stray dog by deliberately running over stray dogs in the Mediterranean province of Antalya was issued only an administrative fine of 1,097 Turkish Liras and his driver’s license was suspended.