Stray dogs have been a significant part of daily life in İstanbul and most other cities in Turkey for hundreds of years. Loved and protected by a few, tolerated by many and hated by even more, tens of thousands of them roam the streets in a culture that isn't exactly crazy about them. So in 2004, when a conversation thread started on a popular Turkish internet blog site about the fate of street dogs who were victims to highway traffic, 10 concerned citizens decided to take a trip to some of the nearby shelters to see how they can help.
Assuming that dogs were well treated and humanely looked after at the shelters, they eagerly went with great hope. What they witnessed drew a crack right down the middle of their hearts. Asli Varlier Pelit, President and one of the co-founders of BGD, a now established rescue organization in Turkey, describes her first trip to the largest shelter in Istanbul as one of the most traumatic experiences she has ever faced. Dogs were found deathly ill, starving to death, disabled, neglected and living in their own waste if they were ‘fortunate’ to still be alive.
From that day forward, Asli and the other individuals from the original group visited the shelter every weekend, in hopes of treating those they could, bringing heaters and shaded shelters and systematically devising ways to solicit donations by educating the public and government through various successful fundraisers (one in particular involving Turkey’s most famous rock stars!).
Realizing that they needed legal jurisdiction to be taken more seriously, Asli and the other volunteers visited the mayors’ offices numerous times before establishing themselves as an accredited legal non-profit organization in 2006. The battle to fight animal cruelty by education, awareness and instigating animal right laws began.
In their first year of operation, they were able to get a loan in order to purchase the first ambulatory vehicle for the transport of animals to their shelter that was in the midst of being negotiated with the collaboration of the municipalities of Istanbul.
To date, they have rescued more than 1,400 animals from the streets but without donations, they could not survive. The pursuit to keep educating the public through workshops in schools, social networking and with the aid of the municipalities, their hope for a better future continues on.
SPCA International is proud to support their efforts, and with your help, BGD can continue to strive towards a brighter future for Turkey’s abundant stray animal population.
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