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Critics Howl As Tehran Bans Dogs


A woman walks her dog past a wall of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

A leading Iranian veterinarian has questioned a new ban on the walking and transporting of dogs in the Iranian capital, Tehran, as illogical.

"How are veterinarians supposed to treat dogs if their owners are not allowed to take them out in public or drive them in their cars?" said Payam Mohebi, a senior member of Iran's Society of Veterinarians. "How are sick dogs supposed to get to us?"

The ban on the walking of dogs in parks and other public places and of transporting them in cars is the latest move by the Islamic republic against dog ownership, which has reportedly been on the rise despite being regularly denounced by hard-liners as an imitation of decadent Western culture.

The ban was announced on January 29 by Tehran's chief of police, Brigadier General Hossein Rahimi, who said the decision was made in a meeting with representatives from Tehran's prosecutor's office.

"We have received permission from Tehran's prosecutor's office and will take measures against people walking dogs in public spaces, such as parks," Rahimi was quoted as saying in an interview with the hard-line Young Journalists Club news site, which is affiliated with Iran's state broadcaster.

He said the reason for the ban was "fear and anxiety," which he claimed dogs were creating in society. "It is forbidden to drive dogs around in cars and, if this is observed, serious police action will be taken against the car owners in question," he added.

A man walks his dog in Laleh Park in central Tehran.
A man walks his dog in Laleh Park in central Tehran.

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, dog ownership has been a controversial issue in Iran, where officials say that according to Islamic teachings dogs are considered dirty.

Speaking in a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Radio Farda, veterinarian Mohebi compared the measure to a long-standing ban on satellite dishes and receivers and the regular crackdowns that have failed to prevent millions of Iranians from watching "un-Islamic" and "morally damaging" foreign TV channels.

"We see that laws are being passed in parliament that are not being respected in society," he said, blaming it on the age difference between decision makers and the majority of Iran's young population and a lack of understanding of their needs. Because dog ownership is controversial in Iran, there are no official statistics, but dog owners tend to be from the middle and upper classes and live in the major cities.

"It shows that decision makers pass laws that are often not based on logic," Mohebi said, adding that such measures were doomed to failure.

"For many in Tehran having a pet is a need that must be fulfilled," he said, while stating that the ban on dog walking is a violation of the rights of dog owners and could encourage the spread of disease.

"It could force people not to take their dogs to the vet. The dog could get sick and make his owner sick. The disease could then spread to neighbors," he said.

In previous years, dog owners have received warnings, or in some cases they've had their dogs confiscated and held in dog jails.

In 2014, a group of lawmakers proposed a bill that would punish those walking their dogs in public with 74 lashes and a fine of more than $3,500.

"We're not safe and now it's the turn of our best companions," a Twitter user said in a reaction to the ban.

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