February 4, 2023

Portrait: young woman with corgi puppy, nature background


Dogs have long been a frequent sight in rural Iran, but in the 20th century, they became a symbol of the modern city. In 1948, Iran became one of the first Middle Eastern nations to establish animal rights legislation, and the government supported the country’s first animal rights agency.



In the Iranian city of Tehran, where Mahsa lives with her dog, there has recently been a spate of arrests of people who own pets like dogs and seizures of those people’s animals.

Recently, the police there proclaimed that it was now illegal to walk dogs in parks. The “protection of the public’s safety” justification for the restriction was given.

There is also a possibility that the Iranian parliament would vote to pass a law that would severely limit pet ownership.

Westernization Symbols

Permits would be required for pet ownership under the legislation under-considered. An “import, acquisition and sale,” “transit and holding” of a wide variety of animals would also result in a minimum fine in the range of $800 to $790 (790 euros to £670).

Dr Payam Mohebi, head of the Iran Veterinary Association and an opponent of the measure, told the BBC that debates over this legislation date back more than a decade when a group of Iranian MPs attempted to advocate a law that would take all dogs and donate them to zoos or deserts.

“Several revisions have been made to this, and the issue of canine corporal punishment has even been brought up. However, their scheme was a failure.”

Dogs have long been popular in rural Iran, but in the 20th century, they also became a sign of urban life. One of the first Middle Eastern nations to legislate animal protection in 1948, Iran financed the first animal-rights group. There were even royalty dogs in China.

As a result of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, many elements of Iranians and their dogs’ lives were transformed.

Iranians’ financial predicament due to Western sanctions over the years has also played a role in the new legislation; authorities have prohibited pet food purchases from protecting the country’s foreign currency reserves for over three years.

A lack of domestic brands meant local prices rose, particularly once an underground market was established. The proprietor of a veterinary facility in Mashhad told the BBC that his business is “very reliant on those who bring in food covertly”.

Trouble with Feline

However, the new regulation does not only apply to canines. Even crocodiles are featured in a list of animals that also includes cats. Because of this, even though Iran is the origin of the Persian cat, one of the most popular cat breeds worldwide. Persian cats are no longer secure in their own country, a Tehran-based veterinarian told the BBC.

pet cat

“No reason can be found for this legislation. People are afraid of the hardliners, therefore, they want to see them in action.”The Iranian Veterinary Association’s president, Dr Mohebi, described the proposed regulation as “embarrassing”. “The future generation will remember us as people who prohibited dogs and cats because they are dogs and cats.”