By Ilya U. Topper


Mert Akkök, a 48-year-old businessman who shelters injured and sick animals in his Istanbul garden, has a plethora of exotic flatmates: over a dozen dogs, a horse, a donkey, 46 seagulls and three cats.

Mert started taking in stray dogs over five years ago, the businessman tells Efe while Kadife (Velvet) the donkey prods the glass of tea he is holding.

At the time Mert was living in a flat in downtown Istanbul, but the neighbors soon started to complain and he moved to a home with a garden where he now cares for almost 100 animals.

"They say there are more than a million homeless dogs, not cats, only in Istanbul," Mert says.