Iranians walking their dogs in public could be sentenced to 74 lashes and a fine of more than $3,500.
Their pet dogs could also be confiscated, taken to the zoo, or left in a desert.
That is according to a draft bill proposed by 32 Iranian lawmakers who have claimed that walking dogs and other "harmful" animals in public is not only a health hazard but also a "blind imitation of decadent Western culture."
The draft bill is the latest measure by Iranian hard-liners who have over the years denounced dog ownership and called for action against dog owners. Iranian authorities and conservative clerics say that, according to Islam, dogs are considered to be dirty animals.
The lawmakers have argued that they're proposing the draft bill in an effort to confront the "growing trend" of dog walking in public and dog ownership in big cities, particularly in Tehran.
The lawmakers submitted their proposals for tougher punishments for dog owners earlier this week. According to the text of the proposed article of the Islamic Penal Code, posted on the website of Iran's Parliament Research Center, monkey owners could also face punishments. Lawmakers have said that they will issue a list of other animals that are "dirty," "dangerous," or "harmful" to public health three months after the approval of the bill by Iran's Health Ministry.
"Those walking or petting publicly animals such as dogs and monkeys [whose] presence in public places damages the health or calm of others, especially women and children, and those who trade them or keep them at home while ignoring warnings by the police, will be sentenced to fines ranging from 10 million to 100 million rials [$377-$3770] or 74 lashes and the confiscation of the mentioned animals,' the proposed law reads.
It also says that following court orders, the confiscated animals will be transferred to a "zoo, forest, or desert" based on the condition of the animals, while owners will have to take care of all the financial charges before the transfer takes place.
The law will not apply to those who need dogs to perform their work, including police forces, farmers, and licensed hunters.
If passed, the bill would also criminalize "the promotion of dog walking" by the media.
Dog owners have faced harassment in the Islamic republic. In past years, pet dogs have been impounded on several occasions in the Iranian capital and held in a special "dog prison."
The measures have been condemned by Iranian animal lovers including the Iranian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals, which in 2012 documented a dog detention center in Tehran.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari