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One of the 30 municipal shelters located in Istanbul.

They’re known as Turkey’s Forgotten Dogs.    

Experts estimate that there are upwards of 150,000 homeless dogs in Turkey. Thousands of these orphaned dogs are golden retrievers. These gentle dogs are found in the forests, on the shores of the Black Sea, hiding under cars, under shrubs, begging outside of restaurants, wandering around garbage dumps foraging for food and hiding wherever they can from the feral dog packs that prey on their gentle nature. There are very few “senior” golden retrievers in Turkey – they don’t live that long.

Is this how we want goldens to live?



Many Turkish people are comfortable with dogs roaming the streets; free-roaming dogs have been documented in Turkey for hundreds of years. About 10 years ago goldens “used to be” a status symbol in Turkey. But as puppy mills cropped up and pet stores started “importing them” they became too popular and their desirability was lost. They’re routinely purchased as birthday or wedding gifts from pet stores for about $130.00 (USD). Once home they live out in the yard since dogs are considered unclean and can’t live inside the home. When the dogs are no longer a cute. little puppy or the novelty has worn off they’re turned loose to fend for themselves or are placed in one of the overcrowded municipal shelters. Some golden retrievers are purchased as an amusement for the children while on vacation; when the vacation is over the family returns home, leaving the dog behind. Shelters do not “shelter” dogs long in Turkey, there are simply too many. The purpose of a shelter there is to spay and neuter, vaccinate, treat minor health issues, tag the ear and release the animal back in the neighborhood where they were found. Some shelters bring the dogs north of Istanbul and release them into the forests. Their working theory is that by performing this service the animal population will decrease because the animals can no longer breed. The Turkish people are very much against the idea of euthanasia of dogs and cats for “population control”. There is little hope for these dogs – or any dog – in Turkey. There is no adoption there. Without help from a rescue group, they will live out their life roaming the streets, begging to survive.

The goldens are mostly young – under 5 years old. The older ones either succumb to the elements or are killed by the feral dog packs.


How did Golden Re-Triever Rescue become involved?

A concerned American living in Istanbul saw these roaming dogs and contacted a large Golden Retriever Rescue Group in the United States in October 2014 asking for help. After an exhaustive process, the first 36 goldens set foot on American soil in May 2015.

Golden Re-Triever Rescue, Inc. (GRRI-NJ) heard of this international rescue effort and decided that it was our responsibility to help. We found that our approved applicants were willing to open up their homes and their hearts for this wonderful breed, regardless of where they came from. What a perfect match … dogs that desperately need a home matched up with families desperately wanting a golden. To date 80 Turkish golden retrievers have been re-homed by GRRI-NJ. The National Rescue Committee of the Golden Retriever Club of America supports this rescue effort as there are no golden retrievers being put at risk in the United States because of this international program affectionately named Operation Turkey Dog. Additionally, no local goldens needing our help are turned away.

GRRI-NJ assigned one person to be our Turkey Dog Coordinator and foster home. She coordinated the rescue effort with several other local golden retriever rescues to bring our first group of dogs over in September 2015. Of the 18 that arrived, 8 came to GRRI-NJ. Another group came in November 2015, and yet another in May and June 2016. At this point we realized we could not financially continue to bring large numbers of dogs over at one time so we resorted to using flight volunteers. The dogs started coming two by two. This has worked very well for us and is much more manageable from a financial standpoint as well as a workload standpoint for our designated foster home.


Adopting a Turkey Dog

 We want all our dogs to find loving forever homes. Because they’ve spent so much time either on the streets, in the forests or in kennels, we’ve had to set mandatory adoption criteria.

  • Someone who will be home most, if not all of the time. These dogs will need patience and understanding as they adjust to living in a new country and a new home.
  • A fenced yard – no invisible fences. These dogs are used to roaming and need to be kept safe and secure; if there is not a fence then the adopter must commit to leash walking, no running loose;
  • No children under 8 years old. We have no history on these dogs, and while they are extremely social, we are treating them as shelter dogs;
  • Adoptees must live in our service area which is NJ, Westchester County, NY and Rockland County, NY. If the adopter is outside of our service area then a Home Visit must be conducted by one of our sister rescues in the Golden Retriever National Rescue network and the adopter must travel to Pleasantville, NY to adopt the dog