The Iranian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals (SPCA) says that 20 pet dogs were recently arrested in a park in Tehran. The dogs were reportedly being walked by their owners in the Pardisan Park last week when security forces took the canines away and transferred them to what appears to be a detention center. The group warns that the dogs are being kept in “unhygienic and difficult conditions and not being given enough food” and that their owners have not been yet able to secure their release.
Observers.france24 Officials have said that dogs pose ‘a cultural problem’ in that they are ‘unclean’ and represent ’blind imitation of the vulgar Western culture.’ Dogs are considered dirty by Iranian clerics, who have denounced dog ownership as morally corrupt. In recent years, police officials have issued warnings against dog owners. Dog owners and their pets have been harassed, detained, and forced to pay fines.
But a month ago, Tehran police announced that the police would capture every dog they encountered. The official reason is religious: Iran’s Islamic law forbids the possession of dogs, considered to be “impure” animals. In the past, several politicians as well as state media outlets had already condemned this practice. For decades, keeping dogs as pets was a rarity and thus tolerated in Iran, where the Islamic beliefs cherished by the vast majority of traditional Iranians consider dogs as najis, or unclean. Guard dogs, sheep dogs and hounds have always been acceptable, but the soaring number of pets acquired by a middle class keen to imitate Western culture has alarmed the authorities in recent years.
They have now criminalized walking dogs in public, or driving them around the city.
Dr Reza Javalchi, president of the Iranian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, has visited the Kahrizak dog detention centre on several occasions.
Several weeks ago, the police announced that anyone walking their dog would be punished, as would anyone driving with a dog in their car. And yet, there are no laws in the country’s penal code that forbid the possession of a pet dog [however, the authorities refer to a hadith, a religious text, to justify their policy]. For that matter, you don’t have to travel far outside of Tehran to realize that there are many veterinarian clinics that treat dogs, as well as many canine breeders. The police and the Red Cross also use dogs for some of their work. In light of these facts, this new decision seems absurd. The police even hide out near veterinarian clinics to confiscate dogs when they come out!
When this new policy was just starting to be implemented, the interior minister told people whose pet dogs had been confiscated that they could get them back the next day at Pardisan Park, in northwestern Tehran, if they had documents to identify their pets. The dog owners showed up, but there were no signs of their pets in the park. They later learned that their dogs were taken to a centre in the Kahrizak region where about 150 dogs are currently being held. About 50 have died since and most of them have contracted illnesses. Today, about four to five dogs die per day.
We contacted the police at the beginning of their crackdown, and they promised us they would stop confiscating dogs. However, they haven’t stopped. We even suggested that rather than confiscating dogs, they could just keep fining their owners. This was in vain. The police really need to be held accountable, because these dogs belong to citizens, and these citizens haven’t officially been charged with anything. Accordingly, the police are responsible for the animals’ safety.