About the Municipality of Fatih – Yedikule Shelter and Rehabilitation Center for Stray Animals

Yedikule Animal Shelter, which is currently home to over 2000 dogs was established in 2001. The shelter covers 2000 square meters of land, and 500 square meters is spared green areas. A total of ten employees are working in the shelter and Mrs. Meral Olcay is the voluntary manager.

Here is how Meral Olcay, the voluntary manager, describes the Fatih Municipality Yedikule Animal Shelter:

What is the story of this shelter?
It was five or six years ago. Like now, I was working as a control engineer for the municipality at that time. I took a different route to avoid the traffic jam and drove towards the city walls. There I realized an old man trying to feed about twenty to thirty stray dogs with bread. I stopped the car and tried to find out what he was doing. He said “They abandon these animals here and I don’t have anything else to feed them.” I thought this was not the best way to go with this problem, and I offered him help. We started preparing dog food with my family at home with chicken necks, bread, etc. I dropped by everyday around 7 PM on my way to work to feed those dogs together with that old man. I was only able to go to work after all the dogs ate their food. I used to go there again during my lunch break, and once again in the evening on my way home. Later on, I had them all neutered or spayed and all of them were vaccinated and marked accordingly with the help of animal rights organizations. The number of dogs soon increased drastically, as more and more people thought it was a good spot to abandon their pets and that they would be taken care of no matter what. Oddly enough, animal control officers of the municipality also started to drop off all the dogs that they collected from the area. The number of dogs multiplied and we ended up having to take care of about three to four hundred dogs. This was beyond my capacity. I met with our then-mayor Mr. Esref Albayrak (who was an architect) and vice-mayor Mr. Nurettin Ertemel to find a solution. I volunteered to design a suitable project for a shelter in a way to contribute to the reputation of our municipality. The number of dogs continued to increase in the meanwhile. It really got out of control. The project was approved, and the shelter was built along with the accumulation of dogs. The initial capacity was for 1500 dogs, and it took one year to completion. The shelter was open in August 2001, and we hosted Mr. Erol Cakir (Governor of Istanbul), Mr. Tinaz Titiz (a former minister of state), Prof. Orhan Kural (an academic and an environmental activist), late Prof. Ismet Sungurbey (who authored the first Turkish animal rights law), along with a crowd of animal fanciers.

Since the first day, both our resident dog population and the number of visitors have increased steadily. We host around two to three hundred people every weekend. These visitors are not only from around the shelter; many people come from farther regions of Istanbul such as Pendik, Kartal, Halkali, Izmit. We even had a guest from Gaziantep today. That really makes us happy. Ediz Hun (a famous actor, a former deputy trained in ecology and environment) and Leman Sam (a famous singer and a real supporter of animal rights) are just a few of the people who support us.

You are managing the shelter on a voluntary basis. How do things work here?
In essence, every dog we accept adds to the existing financial difficulties. People make donations to non-governmental organizations. Whereas here, we encourage our visitors to bring medical and cleaning supplies and materials as well as dog food that we would purchase had they donated us money. We have open and running books at the veterinary clinic, the dog food supplier, and the pharmacy. We request that new dog owners donate certain amounts to cover our debts, and this is how adopted dogs help their mates who continue to stay at the shelter. The amount of donation varies from one dog to another. If our guests are only here to visit us and if they are willing to help but not sure how best to do this, we give them two options: They can either purchase and donate certain items in our needs list, or they can help us in paying our debts to the veterinary clinic, the pharmacy, or to the dog food supplier. Of course, the mayor’s office is a key source of support for us. This shelter essentially belongs to the Municipality of Fatih, and our ten employees receive their monthly wages and benefits from the municipality. We collect food from hospitals, hotels, factories. We try to keep dry dog food at hand. TotalGaz sponsors heating and gas in our kitchen. We get help from our voluntary supporters to cover all other needs.

Yedikule shelter sets an example for other municipalities. Did any other municipal office ask for your help for their shelter projects?
Definitely. I designed a shelter project upon the request of Beyoglu Municipality. The project is not the most important issue for building a shelter though. First and foremost, the site needs to be determined. And then comes the need for the financial source. I would be more than willing to design such projects free of charge, as long as it will help animals, that’s my job anyway. After I completed the design of the project for Beyoglu Municipality, they were not able to get the approval of the city council for the shelter, and consequently they could not find a way to finance the project. Eminönü Municipality approached me with a similar request, and so did the Tekirdag Municipality. I receive a lot of emails and most of them ask for an architectural project for a shelter. A project design is not universal. It depends on the land, the construction site. That’s the bottom line. The direction of the wind, the layout, water, sewer, and electricity requirements, weather conditions, and the climate are all inputs for such a project. For instance, you need to plan for fosseptics, electricity supplies, water channels before you start designing the project. A full appreciation of the site is a prerequisite for shelter projects.

Do you ever come across visitors who love animals and who want to help out at the shelter?
Many people approach us like that. I tell them to come here just to be with the dogs. We already have assigned workers to clean the place and to carry out the other tasks. We clean everywhere five times daily. There are two thousand dogs, but no bad smell. We do not need people to clean around or to distribute food. We need people just to interact with the dogs and to make them feel loved. If they want to help out, the best way is to come here to feel the love of dogs. In addition, when they come, they are welcome to bring with themselves food, biscuits, used newspapers, carpets that they no longer use, blankets, and used sweaters, etc. Leman Sam came in last week as a pleasant surprise, with twenty sweaters, boxes of milk, food, and antibiotics. Prof. Orhan Kural, Ediz Hun, and Tinaz Titiz frequently visit us in a similar fashion.

The shelter has attracted more media attention lately. How did you benefit from the press coverage?
It was for a reason that we attracted the media attention. I contacted all newspapers and television channels and asked them why animals do not receive more of their attention. Our animals are happy and healthy while most of the other the shelters are associated with bad care and mass killings. This shelter is exemplary and the public needs to know that. Thanks to the news, more people became aware of the Yedikule Shelter. As a result, adoptions gained momentum. As our visitors got more crowded, they made new friends among themselves. There are certain groups of friends who drop by every weekend. They started to choose the shelter as a common meeting place. We made way for such friendships while also getting more help. I would like to offer hot beverages to our guests. I contacted companies for sponsoring hot and cold-water fountains for this, but it was for no end unfortunately.

One downside of such press coverage is this: No matter how much we emphasize our need for good homes for our dogs and for help for our resident dogs, more and more people are trying to give away their pets to the shelter. They call us with the excuse that they are no longer able to take care of their dogs, and they let down their old friends. We kindly turn down such inquiries, reminding them of the crowded population of dogs in here. All municipalities in Istanbul have shelters, so we direct them to the appropriate shelter. Fatih Municipality collects the area dogs from the streets and brings them here on a regular basis. We have admitted twenty-five dogs only in the last three days. I have to refuse all other requests, since this shelter aims to serve the municipal area of Fatih. If we run out of capacity, how can we ever help the dogs here?

What does your “Guardian parent project” involve? How can people become guardian parents for the dogs at the Yedikule shelter?
The most important thing is finding the best possible homes and human owners for the dogs here. Nevertheless, life is full of constraints for most people. Regardless of how much they love animals and how much they would like to open their homes to dogs, this may be impossible. Still, they are willing to support dogs and feel their love. Guardian parent project aims to bring together such people with dogs that are in need of guardian angels.

Tinaz Titiz had originally formulated this project. He continuously brainstorms to find new ideas and ways to implement them. He first mentioned this project idea on our opening day. This is a very original idea, probably the first in the world. Some other shelters benefit from it nowadays. When a dog finds a guardian parent, she still stays in the shelter. This does not create an opening for the newcomers, but incumbent dogs can benefit from the support that guardian parents provide for their dogs. The hardest thing for a guardian parent is to choose one specific dog from among the dogs here, because they are all lovable creatures. If the choice is made, the guardian parent is expected to pay for the vaccination expenses, grooming expenses (if any, depending on the breed), and possible treatment costs in case the dog needs medical help. In addition, the guardian parent donates 25 kilograms of dry dog food to the shelter. This way, other dogs can also benefit from this donation. We do not allow guardian parents to take their dog out for a walk very easily. We ask that they come here often, so that we are better able to know one another in person. The duration and frequency of visits help build both our trust and that of the dog. After we fully trust the guardian parents, we allow them to walk around with the dog outside the shelter. We do not allow the guardian parents to take the dog home on a permanent basis. The number of dogs that have a guardian parent is currently around thirty.

What about your adoption activities?
We placed over six hundred dogs in new homes so far. We do this on condition that the new owner will bring the dog back here in case he or she cannot take good care of her. The number of dogs that we have taken back so far does not exceed twenty. This is mostly because we are very meticulous when a dog is about to be adopted. We have all sorts of contact information and we do our own research about potential owners. We check whether the candidate is a tenant or the owner of his or her home. We try to find out if the neighbors will be comfortable with a dog around. These are all important.

You heavily use the Internet. How did you benefit from this?
We simply reach a greater number of people. If we did not have the Internet access, we would be limited with the boundaries of Istanbul. Now, I receive messages from Holland, USA, France, Italy, Nigeria, Japan, and China. This way, we reach the whole world.

What is the daily life like in the shelter?
Work starts here at 8:30 in the morning, and we complete the first round of cleaning. The second cleaning is at 11:30, followed by the third round at 13:30. At 14:30, we complete the pre-lunch cleaning. Food is distributed at 15:00, and the fifth and last round of cleaning is at 16:30. All animals receive food once a day. Breast-feeding female dogs, poodles, and puppies additionally receive dry food and milk in the morning. We especially cook for poodles and other small-size dogs. The 500 square meters of area is regularly cleaned.

Each newly admitted dog is observed in isolation for the first ten days. If all goes well at the end of this period, we place them in their new ward depending on their nature. Dogs can bathe in designated places during the summer, and we also have a canine bathroom. Poodles get a shave twice a year. We dispatch sick dogs to the veterinary clinic daily around 13:30-14:00, and they get therapy based on a program. Dogs with cancer get special treatment every Sunday. We clean and disinfect every ward, box, and doghouse twice every year to prevent flea and tick infections. The same frequency applies to regular disinfection. Two thousand dogs receive medication against internal parasites every two months.

We designed the dog wards in such a way that they will be cool in the summer and warm in the spring. None of these wards has a door; they have little boxes. By doing this, we aim to help them feel more at home. Every box is equipped with cutaway carpets, heaters, and little lamps.

What are some of your activities for increasing children’s awareness on the issue?
Starting from May, children come here on school trips every Tuesday and Thursday. They arrive here on municipal buses, and they bring with themselves used newspapers, pasta, milk, dry dog food, etc. We have a playground for them inside the shelter. They pet the dogs, play games, and have a great time. Most of the time, they visit us again over the weekend, this time with their parents.

How about your dogs?
Currently, I have four dogs at home. The first one is a poodle named Lolita. We found Minik, the second one, on a new year’s day. Minik was later diagnosed with cancer. She stayed with us for about four months during her therapy and she had gotten used to us when the therapy was over. When I released her, she stayed still. She used to hide under the cars and I fed her every midnight. I eventually placed her in another home, but I found myself calling the owners all day long to check on her. The new owners told me that she had not moved at all; and that she had not consumed any food or water. We looked at each other’s face with my husband, and we went to get Minik back from her new owners. It was 11:30 at night. She was so happy to see me that I thought she begged to come home with me. We could not leave her there any longer and she has been with us since then. My third dog Fıstık was abandoned in the streets, and she had already lost her eyesight when we found her. The fourth one, Pamuk, was born at the shelter. We adopted him when he was a few months old. A boxer had killed one of the dogs that we fed in the streets, so we decided to give our love for that dog to our new puppy. Naturally, I have over two thousand dogs here at the shelter.

You can also support us by advertising on our website.
We canpublish your banners on our website in return for the shelter’s needs

Urgent needs
Used newspapers
Canned dog food
Dry dog food
Biscuits (especially for puppies)
Iecillin 800 (penicillin)
Ampicid 1 gr
Iecef 1 gr
Flagyl syrup
Lumen (for fungi)
Bemiks-Becozym C Tablets
Nonsterile gloves
2 cc and 5 cc injectors
Vitamin syrup for babies
Sterile compress
Internal parasite tablets

Canned dog food is an urgent need at our shelter and it is primarily used for applying medication to puppies and sick dogs. Defrezee, Depomedrol are urgent medical needs. Quilts, matresses, pillows, long-handle brushes, water hoses, and yellow workers boots are also needed.

We have a separate list for our paralyzed dogs:
Self-adhesive diapers
Furacin (ointment)
Nn-sterile cotton
Non-sterile gloves
Betaplast bandages
Madecassol (ointment)
Hydrophile compress
2 cc and 5 cc disposable injectors
Bepanthene (cream)
Sterile compress
Petflex bandages

General needs at the shelter:

Tea, sugar Plastic glasses Napkins, paper towels
Dry dog food Canned dog food Heavy-duty garbage bags
Milk Biscuits All sizes of textile fabrics
Dishwashing liquid Surface cleaners Dishwashing sponge
Cif Disinfectant Toilette paper

Medical needs:

Distemper/Leptospira/Adenovirus vaccine Lümen (against fungi) Depomedrol injectable
Panteramycin Taylovet Combisid
Isotonic solution Lactate ringer-5% dextrose Isolight
Blue-tip angio-cath and isotonic set Epargriseovit amp. Ivomec
Bayticol solution (against fleas and ticks) Transamin amp Rompun
Ketamidor Chrome catgut Controlled-release antibiotics
Internal parasite tablets Disposable injectors Sterile compress
Non-sterile cotton Sterile gloves, size 7.5 Non-sterile gloves
Libavit Ercefuryl syrup (for diarrhea)
All sorts of medical supplies

The shelter is open to visitors daily from 10:30 to 15:00.

Architect, Voluntary manager

Address: Yedikule Sahil Yolu, Surdibi, Eski havagazı deposu (Please follow the seaside. The upper alley is closed due to road construction.)

Phone: (212) 633-5857, Mobile: (535) 712-6390, Fax: (212) 633-5857

[email protected]
[email protected]

Translation: Lale Kuyucu Azak