For more information on this issue, see our previously-published article “Azerbaijan’s Mass Slaughter of Stray Dogs Continues,” by OIPA International.
Toplan dog care center in Baku, Azerbaijan is a project financed by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. At the opening ceremony of the shelter, project managers reported that they would be using the TNVR method (trap, neuter, vaccinate and return), so homeless dogs would be returned to the same place they were trapped after being vaccinated and sterilized. As we know, TNVR is an internationally accepted, effective and humane method of controlling feral and free-roaming dog and cat populations. TNVR has been practiced for decades all over the world and has been very successful in many places.
Strange things started happening as soon as Toplan started its work. No dog was seen again after they were brought into the shelter. Among the dogs who disappeared were some who were already sterilized and vaccinated by animal protection organization IDEA animal care center. Toplan indiscriminately removes dogs, including puppies who are too young to be sterilized and dogs who have homes. Several times, Toplan workers have tried to catch owned dogs from their homes. Though the dog owners tried to resist the workers and keep their dogs, the workers caught the dogs using force and violence and took them away in their vehicles.
Toplan’s social media accounts claim that they catch up to 60 dogs a day, but there are no dogs that have Toplan’s tags on their ears anywhere in the city. These tags are used to indicate that a dog has been trapped, sterilized, and returned. We guess that they don’t release any dogs they take from the streets, just as they did not return the previously vaccinated and owned dogs they have taken.
Toplan is highly secretive about what goes on within its walls and its doors are completely closed to citizens. The policemen who carry out Toplan’s security services require permission from the Baku City Executive Authority to enter the premises. What purpose does this level of security serve unless Toplan is hiding something?
We have written numerous complaint letters to relevant officials on many occasions. Our letters were ignored and remain unanswered. We have repeatedly staged pickets in front of the Toplan center and in front of the Baku City Executive Authority. All the protests were violently interfered with by the police.
At our last protest, on June 16th, the number of policemen exceeded the number of protesters. Police officers in plain clothes were shouting at protesters without identifying themselves as police, physically pushing protesters away, and forcing them to leave. Police used force to detain and arrest an animal rights activist and a journalist. They were forced to spend two hours in the police station without any legal basis, and the journalist’s phone was smashed by police.
This video contains footage from the June 16th Toplan protest. There are no English captions available.
In addition to the shady business going on at Toplan, city workers are shooting stray dogs at night for additional payment. As evidence of this, we have on video a man declaring that he paid 100 Azerbaijan manat (about 59 United States dollars) to have the stray dogs living near his house shot. This is illegal cruelty and undeniable corruption. We also have on video the van hired to shoot stray dogs, which belongs to Baku City Housing and Communal Services Department of Executive Authority. The video containing evidence of hired dog shooting can be seen here. Warning: this video contains images of dead and injured dogs and may be upsetting to many viewers.
So, dogs in Azerbaijan are facing two serious and organized threats. On one hand we have the hired killing of dogs by city workers. On the other we have the Toplan so-called animal care center, which traps dogs in a brutal way, even those who have already been sterilized and vaccinated, and makes them disappear.
Stray dogs are not a problem if they are managed responsibly and humanely. Instead this task was given to irresponsible and greedy people who are not interested in actually resolving the problem or helping dogs but who care only about money.
We continue to resist in all the ways we can. This information should be spread and shared so that more people will be aware of the dire situation with dogs in Azerbaijan. We need any kind of support to fight against these killers!
Featured image: a street dog in Saudi Arabia. This image was used because very few images of dogs in Azerbaijan are available. Image credit Henri Quatre, CC BY-SA 3.0.