The Parliament's Animal Rights Committee is preparing to recommend laws to punish pet owners who abandon their pets.
The committee, set up amid concerns over the welfare of animals, also want regulations for the training of pet owners on how to best care for animals and electronic tagging for pets to detect the owner in case they are abandoned. If the Parliament greenlights and drafts laws on the matter, abandonment of animals will be criminalized, although the committee did not suggest whether it should carry a prison term or a fine.
For weeks, the parliamentary committee hosted animal rights activists, nonprofit organizations' representatives, academics and other people involved in animal welfare and rights for a more comprehensive approach to the matter. It will soon issue a report that will cover everything from pet care to "dolphin parks" and horse-drawn carriages popular in some towns. The committee also focuses on a more strict approach to crimes against animals, to their abuse and torture, particularly to make it a crime punishable with prison terms instead of fines as it is the case under current laws treating animals as "commodities."
The committee suggests at least three years in prison for maltreatment and torture of animals. It also recommended the establishment of "animal police," a police department specialized on crimes against animals. A number of incidents emerged in recent years that tarnished Turkey's image as a haven for stray animals, which can be seen freely roaming the cities, huddling together in shops to keep themselves warm in winter. The mass poisoning of animals in Ankara and the discovery of carcasses of dogs and cats in landfills after they were apparently slaughtered in other cities triggered outrage on social media. The incidents were apparently attempts to curb the number of stray animals, while online posts over a string of dog attacks reportedly aggravated attacks targeting animals.
Activists say controlling the animal populations is the best solution to protect them. Animal shelters are present in most big cities, but increasing populations leave them under capacity. Şebnem Aslan, the honorary president of an animal rights federation, told the committee at a recent meeting that sterilization of pets was key to controlling the animal population. "Pet owners who cannot afford it should be funded for the sterilization of animals," she said. Aslan also pointed out the need for the registration of all pets with electronic chips and fines for those abandoning their pets, and a ban for their future pet ownership. Timur Ugan, another animal rights activist, who was heard by the committee says population control for stray animals can be achieved in one year with the right methods. "Sterilization centers can be set up in small towns with a high population of stray animals. Such centers were set up in several towns, and it succeeded in decreasing the population," he said.