by Burak Akinci
ANKARA, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Following a series of vicious canine attacks, Turkey is enacting a ban on "dangerous dog breeds" which prompted some dog owners to abandon their pets, raising concern among animal rights activists.
"Dangerous dog breeds" made news headlines in the past few weeks after repeated pit bull attacks left some children injured across Turkey.
In one highly publicized case in late December 2021, a four-year-old girl was seriously injured after she was mauled by two unattended pit bulls in the southeastern province of Gaziantep. Three people were later detained.
The attack gained a lot of public attention, prompting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to instruct municipalities to round up stray street animals to be sent to safe sanctuaries.
Pit bulls and other aggressive dogs, such as Japanese Tosa and Dogo Argentino, are already prohibited from being sold, imported, or owned in Turkey. Meanwhile, stray dogs, who are to blame for some non-fatal attacks, are being rounded up by authorities across the country.
Some dogs were abandoned on the streets by their owners before the ban, which also demands sterilization of dangerous dogs, took effect on Friday, according to animal rights groups.
"We have received reports of dozens of cases around the country, including in Ankara, and such cases are now being reported on a daily basis," Pelin Sayilgan, the Turkish Animal Right Federation's representative in the Turkish capital of Ankara, told Xinhua.
In the Imrahor Valley, located on the outskirts of Ankara, many pit bulls have joined a massive crowd of stray dogs.
"Recently, we have seen an increasing number of dogs being abandoned in the city and here," said Mesut Canturk, head of the Patili Can Dostlar (Dear Friends with Paws), an animal rescue organization in Ankara.
"Violation of the ban is punishable by severe fines, which some owners consider as an additional cost, so they just abandon their pets who struggle to survive on their own," he said.
Turks are well-known for their compassion for stray cats and dogs. Many Turks regard street animals as communal pets rather than typical stray animals.
Canturk said that some cities may have "misunderstood" the president's call for better conditions for stray dogs.
More than 2,000 animal lovers gathered in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, last Sunday to demand that municipalities not place stray dogs in shelters, which they claim as basically a death sentence for the animals.
"Non-governmental organizations and the government should work together to find a solution to this urgent issue," Canturk said, adding "there is no such thing as dangerous dogs but dangerous owners."
Dogs are only violent when their owners are reckless and indifferent to them, Canturk said. ■