Turkey Reverses Pit Bull Ban

January 13, 2011  

Groups said it violated animal and human rights

StubbyDog staff reporter

Last week in Turkey, people with pit bulls were letting their dogs loose on the streets rather than face a $2,000 fine and see the dogs being carried away to be killed.

Three ministries had announced that they had introduced new rules under which all dogs with a pit bull appearance, all through the country, would be “collected” by local authorities. The rules were coming into effect in accordance with national government orders earlier this year to round up pit bulls and “other dangerous breeds.”

Many pit bull people, however, were determined not to give up their dogs.

“She is no different to me than my daughter. I’ve had her for six years,” Gökhan Sertel, a 42-year-old businessman from İstanbul’s Küçükçekmece district, told Today’s Zaman. “There is no way I am giving her to anybody.”

And so, as the potential mounted for chaos from dogs on the loose, as well as civil disobedience from dog lovers and animal protection groups, the government took a breath, stepped back and reversed course.

The Minister of Environment and Forestry said that the directive to local authorities had been canceled and announced that “we are not going to take anybody’s dog.”

Veterinary groups have also been speaking out about the ban.

“This is not scientific,” said Professor Tamer Dodurka, head of the İstanbul University veterinary faculty of internal medicine. “The entire world rejects this.” He also noted that in other countries where pit bulls had been banned, the dogs’ numbers actually increased.

“We always tell people, when you see a dog you think is dangerous, don’t look at the dog’s breed; look at what the owner looks like. If the owner is dangerous, run away.”

Animal protection groups in Turkey are particularly concerned about the endemic nature of dog-fighting. Attorney Ahmet Kemal Senpolat, head of the Animal Rights Federation (HAYTAP), noted that “Dog fighting websites get 10 times more clicks than our website. We keep appealing to prosecutors to shut these sites down, but the telecommunications law does not allow closing websites with animal fights.”

Senpolat wants the Ministry of the Environment to move the laws against animal cruelty out from under the misdemeanor code and put them in the criminal code.

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