In plainspoken, we will address the issues regarding the growing controversy on campus each month. The topic we have picked out for the first issue of Kampüs journal is the stray dogs living on METU campus. We have gathered different opinions from students, academic and administrative staff on dogs that have become a big part of our everyday life.
Asst. Prof. Korhan Özkan
METU Graduate School of Marine Sciences
For most of us, the stray dogs and cats on campus are part of a nice memory. Sometimes, we were fellows before a difficult final exam; sometimes we shared our food with them on a cold winter day. However, the cats and dogs in our campus are also the subject of a long and comprehensive discussion. This discussion is a multidimensional issue that includes aspects such as animal rights, human security, health, and management of campus. The solution is perhaps not an easy one, and this emotional connection with our animal friends makes it difficult for us to find rational solutions in these discussions.
Is the campus just for us? We should bear in mind that the METU campus is 45 km² and one of the last natural protected areas of wild animals in Ankara at the same time. A study published in a reputable journal “Nature Communications” in 2013 revealed that wild cats killed 1.3-4 billion birds and 6.3-22.3 billion mammals only in the United States each year. (1) We have no room to discuss the devastating effects of wild cats and dogs on natural ecosystems at length, they have adverse effects obviously. I have also witnessed the decline in the number of foxes and wild rabbits in parallel with the increase of wild dogs in the Yalıncak hills since the beginning of the 2000’s.
It is unfortunately not an option to stay in different to the oppression of wild dogs and cats on natural life saying that “it is the law of the jungle”. Our paw friends are not a part of the natural ecosystem; that is we who are responsible for their existence. Shutting our eyes to this natural destruction puts us under the moral responsibility of foxes, rabbits and other animals that are being eradicated from METU campus. Besides, it is our most important task to take good care of our campus which we are proud of and which is glowing with the efforts of Kemal Kurdaş and his colleagues. What we need to do is a matter of work, but we must keep in mind that 82% of European countries are getting wild (or stray) dogs away from the natural and urban environment (2). Australia, on the other hand, is struggling with wild cats all over the continent to protect its extinct nature (3,4). METU should start immediately discussing how to protect its natural ecosystem and to create a viable solution for cats and dogs on campus; and we must do this not with our senses but with our minds and with the guidance of science.
1. Loss, Scott R., Tom Will, and Peter P. Marra. "The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States." Nature communications 4 (2013): 1396.
2. Tasker, Louisa. "Stray animal control practices (Europe)." WSPA and RSPCA (2007).
Director of Internal Services
In the campus of our university, the following actions are being taken for the stray animals under the Law No. 5199 on the Protection of Animals:
●Identification of areas where stray dogs live/take shelter,
●Tagging of aggressive dogs and keeping them under control at the shelter,
●Sending the dogs caught by the Çankaya Municipality teams to the shelters via Paddock cages, carrying out neutering and spaying and vaccination operations (Kısırlaştır Aşılat Yaşat- KAY (Neuter, Vaccinate and Make them Live) ) ●Releasing non-aggressive dogs that have been neutered and vaccinated in the areas where they have been taken (determining the number of dogs to be released)
●In addition to the feeding centers located in the campus, establishing new nutrition centers in areas away from the settlement areas,
●Informing the public of METU to avoid uncontrolled and individual feeding,
●Organizing seminars and briefings on stray animals,
Especially, it is observed that stray dogs constitute problems and complaints in city centers and institutions that have campuses as METU does. I think oversimplifying this issue as animal lovers and non-animal lovers is not so right. First of all, it is important to revise the existing law, to enact a more comprehensive law in this regard and/or to ensure that at least the current law is implemented by all local authorities. It can be seen that even the local municipalities on the same city do not carry out the same implementation for the stray animals and do not attach the same importance. The implementation of the law should not be considered as the collection of stray dogs and shutting them up in shelters; on the contrary, shelters should be converted into veterinary clinics and these places should be designed as places where there will be shelters and rehabilitation, neutering and vaccination will also be performed. It will not be realistic to expect this problem to be solved in the short term, especially as the dogs have a high population rate, if full importance is given to this issue, it will be solved within at least 10-15 years.
The Head of "Pati Dostları" (Friends of Paws) Club
A large part of the Middle East Technical University campus is comprised of forestland. Therefore, it hosts many different animal species. Hosting foxes, rabbits, hedgehogs, turtles and various bird species, our forest is the habitat of dogs most of all. The free-ranging dog population is very high on the campus due to both the size of our campus and the forestlands. The population density of the dogs tends to fill the bearing capacity of the surrounding area. In an increasing population density, collecting dogs and transferring them to another place is not a permanent solution, as the remaining dogs will be better fed, so they will be able to breed faster and compensate for the declining population. If the dogs are neutered and spayed, ear-tagged and left in the area they come from, the calmer dog population would protect their areas and not allow new dogs to settle in their areas. Just as we experienced in dogs on leash in the campus center, the pack of dogs whose manners we know and that live in harmony with people greatly reduces the attack incidents. If the procedures of neutering&spaying and leaving them back to their habitats are done regularly and throughout the entire campus, it will provide a long-lasting solution in the long run, and human health will not be threatened as it creates a calm dog population. In addition, the fact that dogs good with people are in the campus center and are in contact with students is particularly useful for students to reduce their test anxiety and stress levels during exam periods. METU members turned this land into a huge forest and showed their love for nature. Making sure that these animals live on campus without affecting human health is also one of the essential elements what makes METU so special.
Department of Industrial Design, Graduate student
My story with “friends” started when I was a baby. At that time, I was hugging every stray dog I saw and pulling their tails, ears and I was putting my hands in their mouth trying to catch their tongue. My parents never scared me. They were never tugging at my arms trying to keep me away from them. Throughout my story, I came face to face with the most fierce “friends” from whom everyone was running a mile and I sometimes came across packs of up to 15-20 dogs. Although I was not very welcomed with sharp teeth, chirping and barking in the beginning, I finally saw crazily swinging tails and eyes that looked at me in a way telling “love me” and “play with me”. None of them ever hurt me. This is because I have always approached them “friend”ly. If they are a “threat” to you, you are a “threat” to them as well. They live with instincts, but you can get rid of fear and hostility in your head. When you learn to approach them as “friends,” you can make real “friends”. Dogs on the campus are our friends. Do not touch them.