Iran's Bid to Ban Pet-Ownership

On November 9, Iran’s parliament confirmed receiving a bill that will criminalize owning pets, especially animals deemed “unclean” by Islamic law. The bill on the “protection of public rights against dangerous and harmful animals” was drafted by 75 conservative members of Iran’s parliament. The bill aims to amend the Islamic Penal Code to include the importation, sale, and keeping of various animals.

The bill claims that “walking and playing with animals such as dogs and monkeys outdoors are harmful to the health and the peace of other people, especially kids and women.” Such acts are also against the Islamic culture, the bill added. The bill also lists dogs, rabbits, and turtles as “wild, unconventional, harmful, and dangerous,” including snakes and crocodiles.

Payam Mohebi, a senior member of the Society of Veterinarians in Iran, ridiculed the bill. Mohebi, speaking as a veterinarian, cannot see any sensible reason why dogs, cats, rabbits, and mice are grouped with crocodiles. They “cannot be classified in the same category in terms of being dangerous,” Mohebi added.

Iran’s morality police have been regularly harassing and have previously cracked down on dog owners and other pet wonders. The bill will legitimize their enforcement of Islamic laws that considers dogs as “unclean.” Islamist hardliners in Iran also view pet ownership as a “cultural invasion.”

In 2010, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, an ultra-conservative Muslim cleric, issued a fatwa on dogs. “There are lots of people in the West who love their dogs more than their wives and children,” Shirazi explained.

The new bill touted by Iran’s mostly-conservative parliament follows a controversial bill limiting access to condoms and other reproductive health services, including abortion from the public healthcare system.

Bahram, a dog carer from Tehran, said he started taking care of dogs after losing his job due to illness. “I started a kennel to help people who are traveling or emigrating,” Bahram said, explaining that he keeps the dogs in a safe and kind environment. “With the new bill, it’s not clear what will happen to me,” he added.

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