Turkey's parliament to open mini zoo... for animal rights
The first animals to join the 10,000 square metre zoo in the gardens of Ankara's Grand National Assembly will be pheasants, partridges, quail, squirrels, deer and peacocks, while others may join at later stages.
The approval of the project will be decided by the parliament's speaker Mustafa Sentop some time after the country's local elections, which took place last Sunday, Demiroren news agency reported.
The parliament's desire to draw attention to animal rights with a mini zoo may seem unusual, as not all animals receive equal treatment in Turkey.
In the late Ottoman era, authorities ordered all of Istanbul's street dogs to be rounded up and sent to an uninhabited island just outside of the city.
More than 80,000 dogs reportedly died, mostly of thirst and hunger, in what is known as the "Hayirsiz Island dog massacre". A severe earthquake just after the event was locally taken to be a punishment from God for the abandonment of the animals.
While some local authorities, such as the Antalya municipality, provide rehabilitation facilities for animals, as well as water and food points on the street for dogs and cats, others are reported to frequently collect and kill stray animals en masse. One local authority, in Kayseri, was even accused of burying stray dogs alive.
While cats are Turks' pet of choice, with street cats often pampered, while dogs are often abused.
After cases of severe animal abuse hit the headlines before last year's presidential elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to prioritise and legislate for animal rights.
"Protecting animals is not just our duty but a requirement of our faith," he tweeted in June. "Animals are not property but living beings. We brought out the first law on animal protection in 2004. In the new period, we will prioritise the bringing into force of the government draft containing new sanctions in relation to animal rights."
In response, opposition media noted that Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) had previously rejected proposals for animal rights legislation by opposition parties.
A draft bill submitted to the parliament in November promised to take measures to end animal abuse by increasing sentences to up to five years in prison, as well as fine those who abandon their pets.