As stray dog attacks irritate more and more people, an online platform is reaching out to the public with a unique solution: a map showing locations with high concentrations of stray dogs. On Havrita (a combination of Turkish words for bark and map), users can upload photos of the stray pack and pinpoint their exact location in 81 provinces of the country.
The platform is the work of a group of activists who founded it after a high school student was killed after being mutilated by 25 stray dogs in the central province of Kayseri in 2019, his spokesperson and lawyer Devrim Koçak at Anadolu Agency (AA) on Thursday.
Stray animals, including dogs and cats, are ubiquitous in Turkey, where they roam the streets freely and are fed by passersby. Although the public widely admires them, a series of stray dog attacks have sparked an outcry over the past two years. The victims of attacks are mostly children and although the death toll is low, the death of a young girl who was run over by a truck while fleeing stray dogs last March in Antalya has again put the spotlight issue in the spotlight.
Koçak said stray dogs posed a threat, but their numbers were unclear. According to her, official figures show some 90,000 stray dogs in the capital Ankara, another 128,900 in Istanbul and 450,000 in Izmir. “Overall, we expect some 10 million strays across Turkey.” She pointed out that these are not dogs that were adopted and then abandoned,
She says the idea for a map belongs to a platform volunteer. The volunteer started pinning dog attack locations on Google Maps in July 2021. It was rudimentary work until Mahra Melin Pınar died in Antalya in March. As the attack grabbed headlines for days and pitted animal rights activists against stray dog opponents roaming the streets without any measure, Havrita was born. Currently, it’s only available through a browser-based app, but the platform plans to launch apps for Android and iOS soon. It only works by the contribution of users who take pictures of potential risk stray dogs in any location. Most applications come from Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya and Izmir.
Koçak says he received “positive feedback” from municipalities for the map. Stray dogs are collected by teams working for the municipalities mainly responsible for sterilization.
Calls for action against stray dogs becoming more aggressive, especially in the heat, have found a response from authorities. Last month, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey could “pay a heavy price” without dog sterilization and other measures. Speaking at an event in the capital Ankara in May, Erdoğan said local municipalities should do more to shelter stray animals and criticized the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) over the issue. “Other municipalities like Konya, Beykoz district in Istanbul have great shelters. Istanbul Municipality should do the same,” he said.
The president, a dog owner himself, said sterilization was “essential” to solving the problem. “Turkey can pay a heavy price if it does not curb the unlimited proliferation of stray animals,” he said. The president noted that he instructed the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to take necessary measures, including joint efforts with municipalities for sterilization and other measures. “Certainly, we are concerned about (potential) attacks on our children. No parent can accept this; they cannot ignore it out of love for animals. We have to be realistic. We have to take protective measures” , did he declare.