Sunday, June 27, 2010

Authorities to round up deadly weapon dogs

From Today's Zaman

Turkey’s interior, environment and forestry, and agriculture and rural affairs ministries have sent official letters to relevant authorities, including veterinarians and governors’ offices across the nation, informing them of a ban on the sale of “dangerous” dogs including pit bulls and instructing them to round up any they find and to fine the owners of these dogs.
The breeds specified as “dangerous” include pit bull terriers, Tosas, Dogo Argentinos, Fila Brasileiros and mixed-breed dogs from these breeds. The letters to confiscate the dogs was issued upon an order from Parliament’s Petition Committee, which received requests for precautions against “dangerous” dogs from several people who reported being attacked by those breeds, the Milliyet daily reported.
The Interior Ministry sent letters to governors’ offices on June 7 instructing them to collect dogs that are banned to raise and own, to fine their owners, to ban the sale of these animals online and to ban animal fights featuring these breeds. The Agriculture and Rural Affairs Ministry has sent a letter to 51 chambers affiliated with the Turkish Veterinary Medical Association (TVHB) and to provincial agricultural directorates across Turkey asking them to inform all clinics, polyclinics and animal hospitals of Parliament’s order.
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry has sent letters to governors’ offices, too, ordering them to fine owners of those animals TL 3,434.  Parliament’s Petition Committee head Yahya Akman said despite the legal prohibitions, there were problems in implementation, adding that the ministries took action following the decision taken by the committee. The committee determined that there are about 10,000 “dangerous” dogs in Turkey, with 2,000 of them in İstanbul. Parliament warned the ministries after discovering that the dogs are used by criminal gangs and the mafia as deadly weapons. 

Update June 29, 2010 8:38am - The following article is from Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review:
Dog experts bite back at Turkey's Pit Bull ban

The government’s issuing of orders to round up Pit Bulls and other “dangerous” breeds was an unfortunate, unscientific decision, experts have said, calling for assessments of individual dogs rather than a total ban.
“Dogs of all breeds rather than just a specific few must take temperament tests, and those categorized as dangerous must be forbidden and taken under supervision,” said Tamer Dodurka, a professor at Istanbul University’s Veterinary Faculty, daily Milliyet reported Tuesday.
Taking calm dogs that have never caused harm to anyone from their owners just because they are Pit Bulls is illogical, Dodurka said, adding that the country’s animal shelters are already full of dogs and will not accept animals of the four breeds banned by authorities.
Following a call for action by the Parliamentary Committee for Petitions based on complaints from members of the public, the ministries responsible for internal affairs, environment and agriculture recently circulated a memorandum to all governors’ offices around the country. The offices were ordered to actively enforce an animal-protection law passed in June 2004 that made it illegal to own, breed, sell, import, gift, exchange or advertise Pit Bulls and similar dogs. The new orders included instructions to impound Pit Bulls, fine their owners more than 3,400 Turkish Liras and keep the dogs from fighting one another. They also included a ban on the sale of the animals over the Internet.
“I was petrified when I saw the photographs of people who had been bitten [by these dogs],” said Yahya Akman, the chair of the Parliamentary Committee for Petitions, daily Milliyet reported in an earlier story Sunday.
The legal prohibitions issued against dangerous breeds of dogs in the past were not effectively implemented, Akman said, adding that no more excuses should be made for animals that scare and harm people.
Speaking during a Monday visit to the northeastern province of Erzurum, Environment and Forestry Minister Veysel Eroğlu said the dogs subject to the ban had mauled children and bit many people, and were even used by mafia types as an intimidation tactic, the Doğan news agency reported Tuesday. According to the minister, the first step is to make a tally of these breeds in Turkey and then proceed with the other measures listed in the memo. The 2004 law included regulations on registering the ownership of dangerous dogs along with their sterilization and immunization records.
Professor Dodurka criticized the memorandum released by the ministries, saying it represented a poor decision without any scientific basis, especially at a time when other countries are realizing that blanket bans have not decreased the number of attacks by dangerous animals and are preparing to rescind such laws.
According to Dodurka, who is also the chair of the Friends of Living Creatures Association, some of the four banned breeds have never even been seen by the parliamentary committee members who decided to prohibit them. There are no Japanese Tosa in Turkey and only four dogs of the Brazilian Mastiff breed, he said, adding that dogs of the Dogo Argentino breed, also known as the “White Angel,” are mild animals often kept as pets by families.
The ban on these dogs and Pit Bulls will not stop betting on dog fights in the country either, Dodurka said, adding that gamblers will find other breeds to pit against each other. “The ban will not keep them from betting [on dog fights], only the name of the ‘heroes’ will change,” he said.
Since the ban was first announced, the number of Pit Bulls in Turkey has increased rather than decreased, Dodurka added, noting that a similar phenomenon was also observed in other countries that approved similar restrictions, such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, which have now either rescinded their bans or are discussing doing so.
Official notice to vets and animal hospitals
As part of the three ministries’ initiative, the Agriculture Ministry ordered the 51 associations affiliated with the Turkish Veterinarian Union and all the provincial directorates of agriculture to inform all veterinary clinics, polyclinics and animal hospitals about the decision made by Parliament. The ministry had previously notified veterinary surgeons, pet-shop owners and animal-breeding farms that keeping and breeding Pit Bulls and similar animals is forbidden.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry also contacted the Turkish Veterinarian Union, as well as the country’s universities, asking them to report the address and identity information of dangerous dogs brought to clinics and animal hospitals.
Precautions to be taken
In order to inform dog owners and the rest of the public about the new provisions, 20,000 posters and 30,000 leaflets will be sent to governor’s offices around the country to distribute.
Attacks by Pit Bulls have led the ownership of these and other breeds of dog exhibiting aggressive tendencies to be forbidden or limited in many countries. The U.K. and Denmark ban them entirely, as do some parts of the United States, Canada and Australia.

Update July 1, 2010 2:10pm - The following article is from Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review:

Minister says leashed pit bulls will not be taken away from owners

Environment and Forestry Minister Veysel Eroğlu said Thursday that no pit bulls or other banned breeds of dogs will be forcibly taken away from their owners unless they are allowed to wander around without a leash.
“The problem is [the pit bulls] without a leash,” the minister said, adding that unleashed animals will be taken to shelters.
The minister’s latest statement came amid protests against a recent move to enforce a prohibition on four types of dogs considered to pose a danger to people by confiscating animals belonging to the banned breeds.
Veterinarians have spoke out against official requests that they register dogs and report them, saying that would violate their clients’ privacy. The statements have drawn the ire of the environment minister, who said the animal doctors are obligated to help enforce the law.
“The veterinarians will not be able to make unregistered treatments since we have imposed sanctions. We have warned them about this. The veterinarians will not be able to say, ‘I am not reporting [owners of banned dogs],’” Eroğlu told journalists at Parliament on Wednesday.
“When we graduated, we took an oath to keep information about animal owners a professional secret and not share it with anyone,” said Professor Tamer Dodurka from Istanbul University. He added that veterinarians are obligated to report certain diseases, but should not be expected to turn in animals that had not harmed anyone.
“The ministry did not take precautions against very important diseases such as rabies, cattle plague and bird flu, which we are obligated to report,” Professor Tahsin Yeşildere, the president of the Istanbul Chamber of Veterinarians, told daily Hürriyet on Wednesday.
Owners of unregistered and non-neutered pit bulls will be fined 3,500 Turkish Liras; if ignored, these fines can be doubled or tripled at the minister’s discretion. “These dogs will not walk in crowded places even with a leash. People get scared even when they are leashed. Children cannot walk the streets,” Eroğlu said Wednesday, adding that gang members also use the dogs for robberies or acts of intimidation. Eroğlu also said they will not allow more pit bulls to be imported into the country.
The minister said the Forestry Law has been changed to help address the shortage of dog shelters, which will now be able to be built in forested areas. Eroğlu added that the ministry has contacted all municipalities in regard to their dog populations and allocated between 100,000 and 200,000 liras for them to neuter and vaccinate pit bulls and other animals.
Hundreds of pit-bull lovers are organizing online to lobby for changes to the recently announced directives. In addition to forming Facebook groups, Turkish pit-bull owners have started an online petition at to be sent to ministries and the Parliamentary Committee for Petitions. (The website’s URL means “Do not be silent, do not be a partner to a crime.”)
A pro-pit-bull demonstration is being planned for Sunday at Ankara’s Seymen Park from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Update July 3, 2010 4:47pm - The following article is by E. Baris Altintas, Today's Zaman:

Animal groups win victory in pit bull ban row

Last week was filled with panic, anxiety and grief for many pit bull owners in Turkey as three ministries announced that they had introduced breed-specific legislation, under which all pit bull breed dogs in the country would be “collected” by municipalities, without specifying what would happen to the dogs afterwards.
“She is no different to me than my daughter, I’ve had her for six years,” said Gökhan Sertel, a 42-year-old businessman from İstanbul’s Küçükçekmece district, speaking on the day the ban was first announced. “There is no way I am giving her to anybody,” he said determinedly. However, not all pit bull owners are created equal, developments soon proved. As animal rights groups, activists, veterinarians and public health experts repeatedly made statements slamming the law for violating animal and even human rights, some owners simply let their dogs loose fearing they might get in trouble or have to face the TL 3,434 fine. After all, it is a fact that a particular kind of person is attracted to pit bulls. In less than 48 hours, bewildered pit bulls, dumped by their owners, started roaming the streets of Turkey’s largest cities. One newspaper claimed that a family in İzmir was attacked by one such stray pit bull, although members of the family did not appear to have any visible bite marks or injuries in the pictures. Photographs published in the press showed the family’s young son pointing to a blemish on his face, that looked more like an acne spot than a bite mark from a massive and ferocious jaw, but the story was popular, adding to the pit bull hype.
Perhaps it was the threat of mafia bosses, thugs, dogfight fans and in general the kind of people you wouldn’t want to mess with letting their dogs loose on an entire society that helped reverse the ban, but animal rights groups trying to talk some sense into the authorities and hundreds of thousands of people backing animal rights’ groups petitions also seems to have played a role in the reversal. Minister of Environment and Forestry Veysel Eroğlu on Thursday said a circular sent to local authorities had been cancelled and that “we are not going to take anybody’s dog.”
Problems with breed-specific legislation
Experts have pointed out many problems with this kind of legislation, but the fact that it simply does not work is probably the greatest defect. In addition to this, such bans infringe on personal freedoms. According to Professor Tamer Dodurka, head of the İstanbul University veterinary faculty of internal medicine, breed-specific legislation is also a violation of human rights. “What you should do is not ban a particular breed. This is not scientific. The entire world rejects this,” he said. He also noted that past examples in other countries showed that wherever pit bulls were banned, the number of pit bulls in that country rose rapidly. “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,” he added.
Lawyer Ahmet Kemal Şenpolat, head of the Animal Rights Federation (HAYTAP), pointed out other shortcomings of the pit bull ban and problems with breed-specific legislation in general, saying: “The problem here is not the pit bull itself. The problem is that there is no obstacle in the way of uncontrolled breeding and the sale of this breed. The problem is that by banning these animals you are creating the perception in the eyes of society that they are a brand of ‘fighting dogs.’ We had a similar law come out in 2004, and the popularity of dogfights across the country grew following that.”
Like many other experts, Şenpolat also said that it is not the pit bull, but the owners who give them a bad name who are to blame for pit-bull-related attacks. “Dog fighting websites get 10 times more clicks than our website, HAYTAP. There is incredible demand for this online. We as an organization keep appealing to prosecutors to shut these sites down, but the telecommunications law does not allow closing websites with animal fights.”
What to do about dog attacks?
Şenpolat said based on these realities, it was pretty clear what needed to be done. “We would expect the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to make an effort to take the law on animal cruelty from under the misdemeanor code and put it within the scope of the criminal code,” he said.
HAYTAP and other organizations also indicated further shortcomings in the withdrawn regulation, such as the lack of infrastructure and personnel in Turkey to take care of the animals, even if the authorities did manage to collect them all. “We are against them [pit bulls] being raised in urban areas. But these animals will always be illegally bred and used in fights. You see it a lot, they poison stray animals and more strays come back after a while,” Şenpolat added.
The correct method is to keep track of every single animal, which was what the law said specifically of pit bulls and a few other “power breeds” in 2004, but it was not enforced. In fact, as Şenpolat notes, pit bull ownership became much more widespread in Turkey, and pit bulls much more readily available.
A celebrity victim of a pit bull attack, TV host Öykü Serter, whose attack made news headlines in 2007, also says she doesn’t have anything against the breed. “The real problem is with dog owners. They use these dogs for all the wrong purposes. They are messing with the psychology of those animals and torture them,” she said.
A comprehensive study by the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that many other factors besides breed, such as heredity, sex, early experience, reproductive status, socialization and training, might affect aggressive behavior in dogs. No similar study exists in Turkey, but according to CDC findings more than 70 percent of all dog bite cases involve unneutered male dogs. An unneutered male dog is 2.6 times more likely to bite than a neutered dog. A chained or tethered dog is 2.8 times more likely to bite than a dog that is not chained or tethered. Ninety-seven percent of dogs involved in fatal dog attacks in 2006 were not spayed/neutered. Seventy-eight percent were kept not as pets, but rather for guarding, image enhancement, fighting or breeding. Eighty-four percent were maintained by reckless owners -- these dogs were abused or neglected, not humanely treated and kept or allowed to interact with children unsupervised.
The figures make clear the correct approach to minimizing dog attacks on humans. As Viktor Larkhill from animal rights group Let’s Adopt! said: “The only way to protect people from vicious dogs is to go after the dogs that are actually dangerous. Dangerous dog laws focus on any dog, of any breed, that has a history of aggression, and on the people who deliberately train and/or use dogs to act aggressively or for criminal activity. It’s time that we stop blaming the wrong dogs and start addressing the real problem: bad owners.”

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