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Group Says Tehran Easing Its Campaign Against Dogs

October 10, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- An Iranian animal-rights group claims a recent clampdown against keeping dogs as pets appears to have abated in Tehran.

The "campaign" against dogs -- which some strict Shi'ite interpretations of the Koran regard as "unclean" -- began in late September on the orders of the head of Tehran's security forces.

Security chief Ahmad Reza Radan warned that walking a dog in public is against the law.

Police in the capital have confiscated dogs and placed them in what animal-rights defenders have called a "dog prison."

A member of Iran's Society to Defend the Rights of Animals, Payam Ehtisabian, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that officials appear to have abandoned their most controversial tactics.

Ehtisabian claims that pressure by his group and foreign news coverage has led authorities to send some of the animals to a veterinary university and eventually return them to their owners.

Dog ownership has been a topic of considerable debate in Iran -- particularly since the revolution that swept clerics to power under an Islamic constitution -- with some officials denigrating it as a sign of Western influence.

A hard-liner cleric once even suggested during Friday Prayers that all dog owners and their pets should be imprisoned.