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 SPCA has posted on its website a video of the arrested dogs inside a cage. The group warns that the dogs are being kept in “unhygienic and difficult conditions” and that their owners have not been yet able to secure their release.
Reza Javalchi, the SPCA spokesman, told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that the dogs will likely be kept in the detention center for a while and then released after their owners sign a written document promising not to walk their dogs in public.
But every day in confinement is dangerous for the animals, Javalchi says.
“Unfortunately, because these dogs are being kept together, they often become sick and they’re not being given enough food. There have been some cases where some of the dogs have died during their detention."
This isn't the first time that security forces have cracked down on dogs and their owners in the Islamic republic, where dog ownership has always been a sensitive issue. In 2007, a number of dogs in the Iranian capital ended up in a “dog prison" after police forces took them away from their owners who were walking them in the streets.
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. That hasn't stopped Iranians in Tehran and other big cities from keeping dogs as pets, however.
Javalchi says there are no legal prohibitions in Iranian law against it.
“We’ve asked police forces not to act against the laws in many cases. We’ve written many letters and we’ve also prepared a complaint. It is due to be processed in the name of some of those people whose pets have been hurt as the result of these actions. We‘d like to ask the judiciary to prevent security forces from breaking the law," he said.
One woman who owns a small terrier told RFE/RL that dog ownership is becoming increasingly difficult in Iran.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “Instead of solving people’s economic problems, the [authorities] harass us for having dogs.”
-- Golnaz Esfandiari with Radio Farda's Mohammad Zarghami