Following the postponement of the trial against animal shelter employees in the eastern Turkish city of Elazığ, animal rights activists are speaking out. Veterinarian Türkan Ceylan said the death of 1,062 animals in four months in the Elazığ Animal Shelter, run by the municipality, amounted to a “genocide.”
The third hearing of the Elazığ animal abuse case was held last week but the vast majority of prosecutors and witnesses could not attend it due to inclement weather. Four members of the Elazığ municipal staff are on trial for allowing dogs to die in shelters during their tenure.
Veterinarian Ceylan, also known as "Shelter Angel" (Barınak Meleği in Turkish), launched an online campaign under the name of #ElazığDavası (Elazığ Case) to draw attention to the 1,062 animals, including dogs and cats, who died in the municipal-run shelter this year. Regardless of the postponement of the trial, Ceylan is continuing to fight for the rights of these animals.
"Animal shelters should not turn into death camps, those responsible should be punished. Let's all embrace this case,” she said.
According to reporting by daily BirGün, Ceylan and his colleagues have been fighting for more equitable conditions for animals for over three years. They say that the Elazığ Municipality, run by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is trying to intimidate them.
“This is very unlawful. We don't know what happened there for almost two years because no volunteers can get in. Our first hearing was not held due to the pandemic,” Ceylan said. “The second hearing was held in October, the third hearing to be held was postponed again. The Elazığ Municipality is constantly complaining about my posts on Twitter and suing for moral damages.”
Ceylan says the municipality has ignored their demands.
Ceylan says that the local prosecutor's office also highlighted the poor conditions in the animal shelter.
“It is almost like animal genocide,” the prosecutor's office stated. "There are cats eating each other.”
The report further noted unhealthy conditions for animals in the shelter.
“Some pens were not cleaned for a long time, sick animals and healthy animals were mixed together, dead animals were found alongside healthy animals, and expired drugs were given to the animals,” the report wrote.
The conditions are unilaterally recognized as dire. Regardless, Ceylan has been sued for speaking out about the issue.
"It is a great blow to freedom of expression to be sued for sharing something about animals,” she said.