A disturbing video of a hunter in northern Iran brutally beating his dog has triggered a rare public protest in the capital, where dozens gathered to call for an end to animal cruelty.
Pictures and videos of the protest on February 22 posted on social media showed participants calling for the animal rights to be protected, and for legal measures to be taken to ensure the safety of animals.
The protest, held in front of the state environmental-protection organization, was held several days after the emergence online of the graphic video. The clip, which was posted some time ago, according to officials, shows a man repeatedly kicking and throwing a dog during an apparent hunting trip, as onlookers laugh. The dog, seeking to escape the beating, jumps into the bed of a large truck. The man follows the dog, and can be seen swinging a shovel downward above his head at full strength, as the dog cries out in pain.
The incident in the northern province of Golestan also led to a small protest gathering there on February 21.
An Iranian police official said on February 21 that the man involved was arrested within 24 hours after the video was published online, according to the semiofficial news agency ISNA. He said the dog was receiving treatment.
Sharq Daily tweeted images of the arrested man, his face blurred, in handcuffs, and other pictures of people tending to the wounded and apparently malnourished dog.
Hamidreza Khildar, who heads the environmental-protection department of the Iranian police, called for the "severest of punishments" for the man because he had "disturbed public opinion" by posting the video online. It wasn't clear if the man himself posted the video, which was later published by rights groups.
He said the man could be sentenced to a fine and up to three months in prison.
The head of the environmental-protection department of Golestan Province, Esmail Mohajer, said the man had become upset after the dog ate his food, prompting the beating.
"This man is a simple-minded individual with little knowledge, he didn't even know that his action was considered a crime," Mohajer was quoted as saying by ISNA.
In an apparent reaction to the incident and the ensuing outcry, an Iranian environmental official said on February 21 that a bill had been presented to the government to ensure the safety of stray animals.
Mohammad Darvish, head of the public-participation and education department of the state environmental-protection organization, told the government news agency IRNA that the adoption of the bill would ensure better treatment of animals.
In 2015, animals-rights activists protested in several cities after footage emerged showing the killing of stray dogs by lethal injection.
The head of Iran's environmental-protection organization, Massoumeh Ebtekar, promised at the time that the government would introduce laws to protect animals.
Pet ownership, particularly of dogs, is reportedly on the rise in Iran despite criticism and disapproval by the country's hard-liners, who have denounced dog ownership as a "blind imitation of decadent Western culture" and called for action against dog owners.