In Turkey, there has been a No Kill, No Capture policy for stray dogs since 2004. If the government picks up a stray dog, they vaccinate them and then return them to where it was found.
Back in 1910, as the Ottoman Empire was crumbling, it is said that a British diplomat in Istanbul was chased by a pack of stray dogs and fell to his death. It was not long after WW1 broke out and the British government responded by demanding that Turkey round up all their stray dogs and kill them. The Sultan did in fact round up 80 000 stray dogs and banished them to a small island where the people of Istanbul could hear them howl from hunger as they starved to death. In the people’s imagination, the curse of ill-fortune and suffering that followed the outbreak of WW1 was forever tied to the banishment of their dogs, and the Turkish people became hyper-sensitized to the plight of their strays.
After that, whenever the government officials patrolled the streets with a plan to poison stray dogs to keep their cities ‘clean’, the Turkish people would constantly attempt to protect them.
Then, in 2004, on seeing a pile of poisoned dogs, a dentist from Istanbul staged a demonstration and the people of Turkey joined her. The movement started by this young woman ultimately resulted in a No Kill, No Capture policy, making it illegal to euthanise or hold captive any stray dog.
Now local governments take care of stray animals, offering shelter, regular feeding, sterilisation as well as medical checks by trained veterinarians. Istanbul is a megacity of 15 million people, and there are thought to be around 130,000 dogs and 125,000 cats roaming free.
This deep respect and compassion for stray animals compelled Elizabeth Lo, an American-Chinese filmmaker, to make her film in Turkey, even though she cannot speak the language. Her approach to making the film re-centres the world around a nonhuman perspective, following three stray dogs wandering the streets of Istanbul.
Waiting on an underground platform in Istanbul, Elizabeth Lo saw two dogs weaving between people’s legs. She noticed how intent one of the dogs was, and wondered what could be so important to a stray dog so she decided to follow her. This was Zeytin, the dog who became the central character in the movie, Stray.
Zeytin was a dog who never followed Elizabeth back, instead she allowed Elizabeth and her producer to get really close to track and film her. For a dog to be so independent is quite singular, so they chose to let her reveal the plot of the film to them. Putting a tracking device onto Zeytin at the end of the day enabled them to find her every morning and capture the unfolding story.
The individual stories of Zeytin, and fellow strays, Nazar and Kartal, intersect when they each form an intimate bond with a group of young Syrian refugee’s who share the streets with them. The three dogs and the young men form a makeshift family unit.
To watch this beautifully shot and compelling movie, visit the official site: https://www.straymovie.com
Stray Dogs in the UK
In the UK, any dog wandering alone in a public place is classed as a stray. If found, the law requires that the dog be seized and impounded. If possible, the owner will be contacted and can have the dog back if they pay the cost that the kennel has incurred. If there is no information on the dog collar, the dog will be held in the kennels for 7 days, and if no one comes forward, the dog will either be re-homed or if a new home cannot be secured the dog will be put to sleep.
What to do if you find a stray dog in the UK
- Report the stray dog to the council where the dog was found.
- Call local vets and rescue centres.
- If it's safe, check whether the dog is wearing a tag, call the number and notify the owner of the dog’s whereabouts.
- If there is no tag, ask a local vet to scan the dog for a microchip, to find the owner information.
- Create a "Found" poster and place it around the local area.
- Check listings and post details about the dog on missing pet websites eg www.petslocated.com
For the love of all things dog check out Dr Paul Manktelow's 10 Tips For Canine Care