Protests, beatings, arrests: what do Azerbaijani animal rights activists demand?
For more than a month, animal rights activists are protesting in Baku against the Toplan Center for Homeless Dogs. All protests have been brutally dispersed by police, several activists have been arrested, and many are now facing large fines. What do the young activists want from Toplan Center and why does the center for the stray dogs remain silent in the face of these accusations?
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Toplan remains silent
In July 2021, three protests were held in front of the Toplan Center for stray dogs which is located in the suburbs of Baku. Each time, the activists demanded to be allowed into the territory of the center or to speak to one of the officials of this department.
Each time, the protests were brutally dispersed by police officers. Six of the protesters were fined 400 manats [approximately $ 235] each.
It should be noted that more than a month has passed since the first protest but so far Toplan has not responded to the activists’ accusations.
Three protesters were arrested
On August 6, 2021, animal rights activists organized another protest. But this time not in front of the Toplan building but in the center of Baku – on the Fountain Square. Young activists were wearing T-shirts symbolizing the blood of homeless animals.
This time law enforcement officers intervened, detained organizers of the protest, and took them to the police station. An hour later, the detainees were released.
But the events of that day did not end there. After leaving the police station, three activists – Elkhan Mirzoyev, Nijat Ismailov, and Nijat Azayev expressed their complaints to a man who offered city residents to take pictures with his monkey. animal rights activists have accused him of exploiting the animal.
Police officers who were standing nearby detained the activists once again. The next day, the Sabail District Court of Baku city sentenced them to 15 days of administrative arrest.
What do activists want from Toplan Center?
JAMnews addressed this question to one of the organizers of protests in front of the Toplan building and in the center of Baku, animal rights activist Kamran Mammadli.
According to Mammadli, the lack of transparency in Toplan’s work raises concerns. The activists do not know the fate of the dogs caught on the streets of the city by the employees of the center: “Those who wish to become volunteers to take care of stray dogs are not allowed into the territory of the center, even those animals that people care for are caught and taken away in cars. Despite the demands of these persons, subsequently, those dogs do not return to the place where they were taken away from for sterilization”.
“According to our data, from March 1, 2019, i.e. Since the beginning of the Toplan Center’s activities, this department has not published a single report on the fate of the dogs caught in the streets of Baku.
In its early days, the center published daily reports on the number of dogs caught for neutering. But again, there was no information about their further fate. The veterinarians of the center at different times made statements that dogs are released “into nature”, but at the same time they did not provide them with food”, the activist emphasized.
He added that everyday activists witness the catching of numerous dogs on the streets of the capital, but later they are not returned to the area where they are taken away from, and there are no such dogs in the center either.
“This disappearance of the dogs without a trace gives us reason to doubt that they remain alive. And when we began to talk about it openly, our doubts began to turn into a conviction. If we summarize the data of the center, then from their side at least 44, 000 dogs were caught on the streets of Baku. But if you go out into the streets of the city, then you will not be able to count even 44 dogs with a yellow tag – marking the dogs spayed with Toplan.
There are many facts about the withdrawal of puppies by the staff of the center from lactating mother dogs. At this age, the dog is not suitable for neutering or vaccination. Then why and where are they taken? This is one of the biggest mysteries for us. Let me emphasize that one of the principles of Toplan’s work, which they declared at the beginning of their activity, is the return of dogs after spaying to the place where they were caught.
We demand transparency of Toplan’s activities, the openness of their work to the public, return the dogs caught for vaccination and sterilization to the territory where they were taken away from”,”Kamran Mammadli summed up his words.
Toplan refuses to comment
Despite our numerous calls, no one answered us at the Toplan animal care center.
The last time Toplan’s pages on socialmedia such as Facebook and Instagram were updated at the beginning of June 2021, they also do not respond to user requests.