Last week, an upsetting video went viral. It showed a handful of Iranian men putting down a whole pack of stray dogs near the southern city of Shiraz. They were, according to some accounts, injecting the dogs with a form of lethal acid. The footage makes grim viewing; the dogs whimper and twitch and are left a lifeless pile.
The scenes triggered outrage across social media and led to a petition campaign that started overseas. It also sparked protests within Iran, as Al-Monitor's Arash Karami documents:
One of the largest protests was held April 19 outside Tehran's Environmental Protection Organization (EPO), where dozens of animal rights activists asked EPO head Masoumeh Ebtekar to pursue the case. Ebtekar addressed the protesters, saying, “Animal abuse is unacceptable under any condition and we are pursuing the case.” She added: "The general director of Fars Province for the EPO said that syringes have been found but some of the issues of the case are not clear because the municipality [of Shiraz] denies the story."
As Karami points out, Iran does have a problem with stray dogs, and some municipal governments outsource the task of curbing the canines' population to private contractors. Rights advocates have asked officials in Shiraz to identify the culprits and investigate the apparently "irregular" measures used to euthanize the poor dogs.
In many Islamic societies, dog ownership is frowned upon, because the animals are considered by traditional custom to be unclean. Despite the entreaties of some animal rights activists, Tehran authorities have in the past warned against owning dogs or walking them in public.
Dog ownership is also perceived by critics as a Western cultural practice, adopted by Tehran elites.
In November, hard-line Iranian lawmakers even proposed to make dog ownership a criminal offense, punishable by a hefty fine or 74 lashes. The bill has not passed.