Jail time to replace Turkey's animal cruelty penalties

In Turkey there are countless street animals and many are well-loved and cared for. A new draft law wants to make sure the legal framework to protect them is solid.

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Cats are seen in the cat village at Doyran, Konyaalti district of Antalya, Turkey on January 15, 2017.

Turkey is home to a massive number of stray dogs and cats — and they are loved by many and on the whole, well treated.

They can be seen everywhere: coffee shop corners, bookstores and mosques where milk, water and food often put out by business employees, owners and others. Many see these animals as a part of the nation’s culture, especially in Istanbul.

Stray animals are often well fed and sheltered throughout the cold winters.

A cat is seen as people perform prayer at Imam Aziz Mahmud Hudayi mosque in Istanbul, Turkey on January 31,2016.

But when it comes to animal protection laws, legal measures to prevent animal are lacking. Those convicted of cruelty to animals only face paltry fines that amount to little.

That all might be set to change.

Turkey’s Ministry of Forestry and Water Management has taken action to make sure cruelty against animals is punished fairly.

It has submitted a draft animal protection law and has sent it to the prime minister’s office for review. If approved, it will go to parliament.

The draft law was initially presented in 2014, but no headway was made in passing it. However, the government is now pushing ahead with the proposed legislation.

Animal rights activists criticised the draft law at the time, saying that there was no consultation with them and that they believed that some issues had not been properly addressed.

A street dog in Antalya, Turkey.

If passed, the new draft law will raise the penalty for animal fighting as well the killing, torturing or abuse of animals. This includes “leaving them without food and water” or “neglecting their care.” If convicted, those found guilty can face fines or sentences ranging from three months to three years imprisonment.

Under the current law, the highest penalty is a paltry 7,500 lira ($2,119) fine. The average monthly salary in Turkey is about 3200 per month. 

Municipalities with a population of more than 100,000 will be required to establish animal care centres.

Under the draft law, it’s not only street animals that are protected. Opening animal circuses and dolphin parks will be banned.

Pet shops will not be allowed to keep pets, except for aquarium fish and birds, in their stores. They will only sell animals from animal breeding farms or animal care centres.

Dogs lie on blankets laid by citizens at entrance of a shopping center in Bakirkoy district of Istanbul, Turkey on January 8, 2017. Citizens feed animals and lay blankets on the floor to warm them up during inclement weather conditions.

Highlights from the draft law

  • Prison sentences and increased fines for animal cruelty.

  • Involvement in animal fighting is penalised with sentences ranging from 6 months to 2 years.

  • Killing animals intentionally, cruel behaviour, beating, leaving them without food and water, exposing them to extreme cold or heat, neglecting their care, physical or psychological, will be sentenced to anywhere from 4 months to 3 years in prison.

  • Hurting, harming or causing pain to animals in the production of movies, commercials and other media is banned.

  • Establishing animal circuses, water circuses or dolphin parks is banned.

  • Municipalities with a population over 100,000 are required to establish animal care centres.

  • Forcing animals to do actions that exceed their power are punished with sentences ranging from four months to four years.