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Street Dogs in Istanbul

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Stray Dogs of Istanbul, Turkey

“All dogs hate Wade,” I can remember an old friend saying as we walked up to a screaming dog on a porch. The dog was barking at me, and me alone. I glared at the friggin’ thing.

Dogs are the occasional enemy of the traveler.

This was back in 2005, five or six years after I began traveling. When I was young I loved dogs and they loved me. It was not until I began traveling that I learned of their foul ways.
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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Istanbul, Turkey- March 5, 2009
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The initial years of my travels were spent tramping around South America. I walked a lot, often going on multi-day hiking journeys between towns and villages. I had the Harry Franck and Chatwin rhythm in my bones.

I was met by overly territorial dogs more times than I would like to say. We learned to hate each other. With one stone in my left hand pocket and another in my right, I would arm myself as I went on my walking trips. And I must say that I never hesitated to use this ammunition. I would not allow myself to be attacked without a fair fight.

“What is wrong with you?” people would ask, “Why do dogs hate you so much?”

“It is because they know that I am a dog,” I would reply with a fifty percent degree of seriousness. But it was true, the dogs would bark at me as if I were a marauder of their own species.

But this poor relationship with the canine species began to not sit too well with me. I sought to resolve our conflicts last year in Central America. Simply put, every time I would see a dog in the street I would give them a big, “Ho! Dog friend!” with a friendly nod of acknowledgment.

It worked.

I still use this method today. There is a feeling of energy that is transferred every time you approach anything. When I viewed dogs as enemies, I was treated as such. When I approached them as friends, they just smiled and wagged their tails or ignored my presence all together.

Street dogs of Istanbul

When I was riding my bicycle from the Czech Republic to Turkey last summer, I was warned about the ferocious street dogs of Istanbul. I was not too worried, but I stored the warnings in my memory.

When I finally arrived in Istanbul a month ago, I was rather surprised to find that the street dogs are the fattest, tamest, laziest dogs that I have yet come across in any street of any city on the planet. I waited nearly a month to write this travelogue entry, for fear that my initial impressions would be proved incorrect, but they still stand intact. Everywhere that I have walked in the city and in the outskirts, on both the European and Asian sides of the river, the dogs are as gentle as lap poodles, and as fat as cows.

I wondered why this was, so I asked.

“They kill the street dogs here,” I was told.

I am unsure how poisoning street dogs leads to them acting tame, but that was the response that I received. I looked into this statement and found it to be true: Turkish municipalities often poison or relocated stray dogs to the forests. To kill the fuzzy and lazy dogs that now run jolly through the Istanbul streets seems a touch unnecessary, but I have not yet been chased down by a gang of them yet.

I looked further into the information available on the subject, as it is my impression that if these dogs were being slaughtered in mass that there would not be so many of them just laying around on the streets. Not surprisingly, most of the resources that cited information about the dogs being killed were published by animal rights organizations.

It is folly to disbelieve on principal the ravings of a group with an agenda, but it is also folly to believe them open handed.

I find it difficult to accept that the street dogs of Istanbul are being slaughtered, as obvious evidence does not back up this claim. The dogs are everywhere, and they seem to be cared for to a certain extent.

An article in Today’s Zaman, an Istanbul newspaper, states that, “In 2006 the directorate began a microchip tagging program for stray dogs and to date has tagged 15,952 homeless dogs. The implanted chips keep a record of the dogs’ immunizations, treatment information and other vital details, such as the areas they frequent. When veterinary teams round up dogs for shots and other medical treatment, the chips enable them to access the dogs’ patient records and medical history.”

The article continues, “Since 2004, over 29,500 strays have received medical treatment and therapy from the directorate, in addition to 19,742 stray dogs spayed, 24,798 receiving vaccinations and 3,839 being adopted by new owners.” -Electronic chips track stray dogs

It is true, most of the dogs in this city’s streets have little white tags hanging from their ears. These dogs also seem very well fed and relaxed as they doze the days away in the streets of Istanbul.

The animal rights activist are in a frenzy about these dogs being killed, and I do not doubt that it does happen. But it is a matter moderating extremes: just because something does or did happen, does not mean that it happens all the time. There are no rules in this world of gradient extremes: few things are black, and even fewer are all white.

It is my impression that the street dogs of Istanbul are the most well cared for strays on planet earth. This is my impression, this is what I have observed. I also know that it is not unusual for municipalities to kill street dogs, it happens all over the world. The street dogs of Istanbul have an ages old reputation, and this lends them to be easily catch-phrased. From my observations, these street dogs are not doing too badly in comparison with their brethren across the earth. I have routinely come face to face with packs of snarling, disease ridden, and half-starved pariah dogs in many cities of this planet, and, from my experiences, these dogs are not in Istanbul.

Istanbul stray dogs
Electronic chips track stray dogs
Turkish street dogs links
Save Istanbul street dogs
Dogs Murdered and Stashed in Istanbul Forest
Police Brutality Against Street Dogs
2000 Dogs Killed in Beykoz

Street Dogs of Istanbul, Turkey

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Filed under: Eastern Europe, Europe, Turkey

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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