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Dog Ownership May Soon be Criminalized in Iran

For years now, the Iranian government has generally tolerated dogs, despite dogs being seen as dirty un-Islamic scourges. Sure, you could be walking down the...

Maria Goodavage  |  Apr 20th 2011


For years now, the Iranian government has generally tolerated dogs, despite dogs being seen as dirty un-Islamic scourges. Sure, you could be walking down the street with your dog during a crackdown and have your dog taken away from you by police. But in general, dog ownership there carried relatively few risks, and dogs have become increasingly popular with the urban middle class.

That could change soon, if lawmakers pass a bill that criminalizes dog ownership, according to Time magazine.

“Walking dangerous, unhealthy or unclean animals such as dogs in places and public transport is forbidden,” states the bill, which notes that violators will be fined $100 to $500 and that “their animal will be confiscated,” states an AFP article. An article by the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) puts the fine as high as thousands of dollars, and says dog owners would have 10 days to “dispose of their dog.” If the owner still has the dog after 10 days, the government would confiscate it.

In part, the move is based on Islamic beliefs about dogs. I won’t get into the details here, but Muhammad was not exactly fond of dogs, and ordered them killed, particularly black ones. Since I’m not an expert in this area, here’s a link for more information on Islam and dogs. And in fairness to the many Muslims who don’t think dogs should be forbidden, here’s a page on Islam and dogs that has a different bent. And here is an article by a loving dog owner in Iran. (Please if anyone has any more light to shed the issue of dogs and Islam, I welcome your voice and any relevant links in the comments section below.)

According to IANS, last summer Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi issued a fatwa (religious edict) against keeping dogs as pets. That’s when the crackdowns starting in earnest.

Another reason dogs have come under more fire lately, according to press reports, is because middle class people living in cities like Tehran are often eager to imitate the West — something Iranian officials are not wagging their tales about.

“Global norms and values capture the heart of people all around the world, and Iran is no exception,” Omid Memarian, a prominent Iranian journalist specializing in human rights, told Time magazine. “This is very frightening for Iranian officials, who find themselves in a cultural war with the West and see what they’re offering as an ‘Islamic lifestyle’ failing measurably.”

The anti-dog bill states that in addition to posing health problems, the increasing popularity of dogs as pets “also poses a cultural problem, a blind imitation of the vulgar culture of the West.”

The draft bill not only makes it illegal to walk dogs in public places, but also makes it a crime to keep a dog in an apartment, or even put a dog in a vehicle.

This is not a place where people are trying to make nice dog parks or hoping that dogs will be allowed at outside tables at cafes or shopping in stores. It’s a place where you pray that your dog won’t be taken away and killed when you walk her. It makes you grateful for what you have, Dogsters, and makes what you may not have (the perfect park for pooches, for instance) seem a little less important.