In its latest attempt to crackdown on dogs in the country, Iran has banned dog-walking in public or driving them around in cars. Dog owners who violate the rules will see their pets ‘arrested’ and could also face a fine. Deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan told the Fars news agency that they ‘will confront those who walk their dogs in the streets, and cars carrying dogs will also be impounded.’
The Iranian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has questioned whether such law is illegal. It said dozens of dogs had been ‘arrested’ and were taken to ‘undisclosed locations’. According to animal supporters, this crackdown is more severe than previous attempts. Payam Mohebi, a pet hospital chief from Tehran, said, “owners are being told that their dogs will be killed, and no paper (confirming the confiscation) is given to them.”
According to AFP, prominent cleric Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi warned that dog ownership would lead to family corruption and damage societal values. “Many people in the West love their dogs more than their wives and children,” he said. In response to his statement, the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance proceed to ban all media from publishing adverts about pets.
Iran’s Grand Ayatollah: dog ownership will corrupt family and destroy society
But despite the threats, sales of dogs are booming in Iran. Pet shop owners and vets said businesses have risen sharply in recent years. Pet foods and grooming kits are available at most supermarkets and dog training schools and ‘dog hotels’ have even sprung up in the country. They however, are not allowed to keep dogs inside the shop, only bringing them into public (to the buyers) when a deal has been made.
As Western influence crept in, it has become increasingly fashionable in well-to-do Tehran neighborhoods to keep dogs especially expensive pedigrees as status symbols. Customers are opting for ‘tiny’ dogs such as Chihuahuas that make less noise and are easier to hide during walks or car trips.
Sitting in the small Tehran pet shop he owns, veterinary pharmacologist Soroush Mobaraki says sales are booming despite fears that the pooches might be ‘arrested’ and their owners fined. “There has been a sharp increase in demand for dogs in recent years. We sell 15 to 20 dogs a month, but I know some other traders who sell many more,” said Mobaraki, aged 34. In theocratic Iran, Islamic clerics consider dogs as “najis”, or unclean.
“We are not allowed to keep them in pet shops. I only bring them here when I have struck a deal in advance with the buyer. Most of our customers go on our website to pick the dog they want,” said Mobaraki, who refused to share the Internet address for fear of retribution. “There they can even find useful information on different breeds, and on how to take good care of pets.”
Guard dogs, sheep dogs and hounds have usually been tolerated in Iran, although they are not allowed into homes. Specially trained dogs, such as those that detect drugs, are also allowed, but the soaring number of pets acquired by a middle class keen to imitate Western culture has alarmed the authorities in recent years.
“You see, for me, she is not only a pet but a family member,” 28-year-old Nahal, who declined to give her full name, said of her two-year-old Pomeranian. Nahal said she walks her pooch at night to avoid confiscation, but some others are left with little choice. “I don’t dare to take my dog out with me anymore,” said a middle-aged woman, who asked not to be named, at a family picnic in a park in western Tehran. “So we left her home today.”