bne IntelliNews – Social media app ‘Bark Map’ causes outcry in Turkey after rise in poisoned street dogs

Havrita (“Bark Map”), a Turkish social media app that targets stray dogs by providing users with a mapping/location service, has come under fire after an increase in the number of poisoned street dogs.

Launched in May 2022, Havrita allows the app user to share a photo of a dog and its location in all 81 provinces of Turkey. This seems to have led to the increase in the number of poisoned dog cases. The head of the Istanbul Bar Association’s animal rights commission, Gulsaniye Ekmekci, said Gazette Duvar how in the southern province of Antalya, about eight to 10 dogs were found dead around the same places shown on Havrita.

Amid growing outcry, social media users in Turkey started a hashtag (#HavritaKapatilsin (“Shut down Havrita”)) to call for Havrita to be shut down. Protesters targeted the platform’s spokesperson, lawyer Devrim Kocak. However, in a tweet, Kocak suggested that those who wanted the platform taken offline were wrong.

According to pro-government Sabah newspaper, “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”.

In another tweet, Kocak described the app as a “user-friendly social media app” that should be protected under Section 56 of the Constitution. The article protects the right of people to live in a healthy and stable environment.

GlobalVoices noted that Havrita’s website is full of stray dog ​​photographs with locations. The founders of Havrita, the outlet reported, claimed it was not for targeting but to identify locations, while adding that Havrita takes no responsibility for what happens to dogs once their location is pinned on. the map.

Guliz Gunduz, who works to help stray animals, expressed concern about Havrita’s past in an interview with online news platform Bianet. The founders of Havrita, he said, participated several years ago in a public campaign targeting street cats. The campaign was called Anadolu Kedisi (“Anatolian Cat”).

“Then they went after the dogs, and we animal rights activists and organizations responded seriously. They stopped for a while, until about a year ago the same people founded a website called Basibos Kopek Sorunu [‘The problem of the stray dog’]said Gunduz quoted in the interview. In response, he added, people began to feel uneasy when they came across stray dogs. “Even though the street animals are afraid [of] us anyway. They face violence and abuse anyway. Instead of punishing the guilty, we are now seeing stray dogs being held accountable,” he said.

On August 22, after the orders of the criminal justice of the peace of Ankara no. 1, access to the Havrita app and website has been blocked. On the same day, Kocak said the app would be suspended due to public backlash.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously described the shelters available for stray dogs as clean and safe environments. But critics say there are very few shelters in Turkey that provide adequate services for stray dogs.

In an interview with The IndependentMine Vural, an animal rights activist and veterinary technician in Istanbul, said: “In general, in Turkey, shelters are trauma and death camps for animals.”

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