Thousands of stray dogs roam the streets of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, and some of them are a much-beloved and popular breed – golden retrievers.
An Atlanta group focused on rescuing and securing adoptions of goldens has stepped in to save the day for these furry, homeless creatures.
Adopt a Golden Atlanta spearheaded the journey of 36 goldens from Istanbul to Atlanta and plans to continue the initiative twice a year – during the times of year when the weather isn’t scorching hot or freezing cold.
“We never say no to a golden retriever in need,” said Lauren Genkinger, the group’s founder and president.
They arrived May 9 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport from a land where the stray dog problem is one of the country’s more persistent issues.
Animal rights and legislation are “trending topics” for Turks, said Aysu Altikardesler Ilman, a veterinary surgeon in the city of Izmir.
“They sometimes are graduate gifts for children, and at the end of summer when they realize how hard it is to raise a puppy or care about a dog, they leave them,” she said in an email.
As for goldens, they became a status symbol in Turkey. Pet shops got puppies from such countries as Germany and Italy and sold them.
Eventually they were abandoned because their high status dropped and they became too much of a responsibility, Yasemin Baban, a shelter volunteer in Istanbul, said in a Skype statement.
“Once the puppy is a little bit bigger, most of the time they don’t know where to put it, they can’t take it in the car and people are complaining about the barking,” she said.
After abandonment, they live in shelters, on the street or subsist in forested areas.
After Ms. Genkinger heard about the plight of the animals, she and her Turkish counterparts dove into action.
They got big airline crates, passports and health certificates. The dogs were flown from Istanbul to Luxembourg, where they were fed, watered and exercised. Then they flew from Luxembourg to Atlanta.
Ms. Genkinger got donations and discounts from businesses for their travel and the care. They are InXpress USA; Global Animal Transport, Cargolux Airlines, VCA Animal Hospitals, Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead, Transport Solutions of America and The Pet Set Mobile Grooming.
Another entity is Pet Lodge Pet Resort in Alpharetta. That’s where the animals are now. Many of them should be ready for adoption at the end of May.
Ms. Genkinger said she wants to bring more dogs over in November and hopes American adoptions spark new interest in Turkey for finding homes for the dogs.
One day, she said, “We want them to say there are no goldens available.”
To donate or get on the list for adoptions, visit http://www.adoptagoldenatlanta.com/turkeydogs.asp.