Turkey, A Problem With Stray Dogs

Bodrum Harbour

An important pre-post message:

If you are a dog lover then I warn you do not read this post and if you do please do not send me comments telling me how lovely they are!

“It wouldn’t bother me in the least…if all the dogs in the world were placed in a sack and taken to some distant island… where they could romp around and sniff each other’s anuses to their hearts’ content and never bother or terrorise me again.”  –  Bill Bryson

After the drama of the boat ride excursion to Bodrum we were looking forward now to three quiet days to finish our visit to Turkey.

On the first of these we planned a long walk.  After the weekend storms the weather was perfect now for a stroll along the seafront and after breakfast we set off for the Marina about seven kilometres away around the other side of the bay.

I liked Turkey, the people, the food, the history, the weather but two things spoiled it (and they are not the IMX trips to Pamukkale and Bodrum) the first was the litter that I mentioned earlier and the second was the dogs because Altinkum, like most of Turkey has a problem with feral street dogs that wander around in pairs or packs and are quite simply a complete nuisance.  Today as we walked along the tourist strip a group of three of four followed us for a while and set my nerves jangling like a bell on a fire engine responding to an emergency.

I don’t like dogs, they frighten me, I probably mentioned that before, and I am fairly certain that I am not the only one and these mangy things that follow people about in the hope of food are just horrible.  My visit wish list has always included Istanbul but I read now that the problem there is huge with an estimated 100,000 stray dogs living on the streets and on account of that I have crossed it off the list.  Athens was bad enough.

Actually it is a World wide problem, The World Health Organization estimates that there are more than two hundred million stray dogs worldwide and the worst places are Bali, Bangkok  and Baghdad.  Three more places off my visit wish list, although to be honest Baghdad was never on it in the first place!

Someone will ignore my warning and read this and comment that they are lovely – they are not lovely – they are big, smelly, dangerous and intimidating.  Message boards are full of reports of dog attacks, animals running wild, ripping apart waste bags and howling all night long.

Actually, a law passed in 2004 requires the Turkish government to neuter and vaccinate all strays and then return them to the same area from where they were taken but with an electronic ear tag and a non-removable collar.  That seems like a lot of trouble to go to if you ask me, why take them back to where they will be a nuisance again? I would just collect them up and destroy them – that’s what we do in the UK.  Furthermore, by my highly unscientific survey of ears and testicles it appears that compliance is rather random and remains less than comprehensive.

Animal do-gooders would be outraged by such a suggestion I am sure but for me there is no place in a modern city or a holiday resort for packs of menacing animals wandering about.

If you think I am being dramatic or alarmist here then consider this – Turkey is unique in that it is the only European country in which the principal source of rabies is the domestic dog and it is also the only European country in which dog rabies from bites remains a serious public health issue because every year a huge number of suspected rabies dog bites are reported.

Consider this from Dr. Richard Smithson, a Consultant in Communicable Disease Control with the Public Health Agency of Northern Ireland: “In the past few weeks we have had several people returning from Turkey who have been bitten by animals and have had to be given anti-rabies treatment. This treatment is not pleasant as it consists of a series of injections. However, it is essential as rabies is always fatal and once it starts to develop it is too late to start treatment.  The message is simple: stay away from domestic and wild animals when abroad. It doesn’t matter how cute they look. If they bite you, you are going to end up spending a lot of time getting sorted out in a hospital casualty department.”

Anyway, thankfully the pack of dogs eventually lost interest in us and went off to irritate someone else and relieved by that we carried on to the Marina.

We spotted what looked like a short-cut across a beach and made our way across it only to be confronted with a security fence and no possible way around it unless we were prepared to swim about a kilometre out to sea so we were forced to turn back and find a way through a housing estate before rejoining the road and when we got there we couldn’t get in anyway.  Security guards barred our progress to the harbour and the boats whilst almost apologetically inviting us instead to stay as long as we liked in the public area as some sort of compensation.

There was no real point in hanging about the public area because we couldn’t see the boats over the high hedges and walls so disappointed by that we left the Marina and walked all the way back whilst keeping a keen eye out for the danger of stray dogs.

Walking in Altinkum Turkey

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27 responses to “Turkey, A Problem With Stray Dogs

  1. That doesn’t sound like a fun place to be with the dog issue. I’ve not traveled much, so now I see what I’ve been missing! 😉

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  2. Andrew we have chatted previously about dogs and yes while cycling in Turkey there were definitely strays. No one was bitten but it was common to have one show up on the road. We were in Istanbul for four days and I do not see one stray dog.
    I can totally appreciate your fear as my good friend who cycles shares the feeling. However for us Turkey was one of the best places we have ever traveled, dogs or not.

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    • I agree with you absolutely about Turkey but not the dogs. Athens was another dreadful place for stray canines and it wasn’t unusual to see them chasing motorcyclists down the street. Dogs send a shiver down my spine even when they are on a leash!

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      • Andrew I swear when we were in Athens I didn’t see any dogs. I bet I am just not being as observant because I don’t usually mind them. I hear what you are saying though about needing to be mindful of being bitten and again with my friend being fearful I have an appreciation of your standpoint

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      • I was pestered to death in Athens. A scruffy mongrel followed me all along Piraeus harbour front, I had to go into a bar and have a Mythos to shake it off. You must have some really effective dog repellent spray – where do you get it from? Kim says that dogs know when people don’t like them so pester them all the more!

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      • Oh I am with Kim. there can be a dog in any country and it heads straight for my fearful friend instead of me. I have seen it happen multiple times. Mythos sounds like a good remedy. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • And having a negative opinion about dogs is a guaranteed way to get some interaction… and lose followers!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I happen to like my dog, but she’s kept under control and never allowed to bother people unless they make the overture. I actually feel the same way you do about strays. They shouldn’t be allowed to run loose or breed.

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  4. “A dingo took my blogger!”

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  5. I agree with you about dogs. I find them a problem in the US, where they are not properly trained, while in Europe dogs with owners will always (so far!) behave beautifully.

    But please put Istanbul back on your list! It is a wonderful city, and I have had no problems with dogs there. Vendors are certainly a nuisance but not dogs. Ditto Bali and Bangkok. Bangkok is not one of my favorite cities, but the dogs there are too sick and/or lethargic to be a nuisance.

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  6. I say, Andrew, reading this was almost like listening again to my cousin’s experience of Turkey just two weeks ago. She went with a group of Aussies on a tour and oh boy, the poor woman returned home devastated with the visions of “so many stray, sickly, thin dogs roaming around”… she said her heart broke there and as animal lover she saw nothing almost nothing just stray dogs to which her eyes turned at almost every step. Pity they can’t control that nuisance and sadness too.

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  7. I’m not a dog person, but can appreciate a friend’s nice dog. Strays scare me too. Thankfully, I haven’t seen more than one stray at a time and not often.

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    • I am not a dog person. What irritates me is that people who like dogs generally cannot understand that some people don’t. I am a cat person and I genuinely understand that some people are not. If someone comes to my house and doesn’t like the cat then it has to go out of the room. Dog owners rarely, if ever, do this!

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  8. I think you have reasonable concerns when it comes to stray, unknown dogs in a foreign country. Though it sounds like the Turks are working on the problem, there always will be unvaccinated animals that are a health and safety threat. This can hold true in any country, frankly, because people are incredibly irresponsible with animals, and cost of vaccinations may deter some from taking care of this basic responsibility of pet ownership. It isn’t unreasonable, either, to assume many strays have survived some form of abuse at the hands of people, and may not be the most social of animals. Who wants to be bitten?

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  9. I’m with you Andrew seems it’s not just you and Richard that have things in common. I can guarantee if we go for a walk in the wood close to us where many dog walkers seem to be, their dogs always charge towards me. I hate them !

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  10. I admit that I’m with you Andrew. I grew up in a home where we always had a dog. I should be comfortable with them … but ever since I became a runner and cyclist, dogs make me very nervous. If they aren’t on a leash, I’m even more cautious.
    Feral dogs would scare the bejeesus out of me.

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  11. I am a dog owner and love dogs that I know, but I am very wary of ones I don’t. We travel extensively, but I will not go near a dog I do not know. All strays fall into that category. Rabies is a real issue in many parts of the world and it’s just not worth the risk. Makes sense to carry a stick. I appreciate that some people are terrified of dogs and believe it is a dog owner’s responsibility to walk their dog on a lead.

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