Iran Threatens 74 Lashes As Punishment For Owning A Dog

Under Iran's clerical leadership, canines are considered "unclean" animals and therefore keeping them has always technically been forbidden by religious law, though not strongly enforced. But now, in what some are calling a crackdown on Western influence, a new bill put forth by Iran's parliament would make dog ownership a serious crime - one subject to corporal punishment.

"Walking dogs, trading them or keeping them at home will be punishable by 74 lashes or a fine of 1m to 10m Tomans [$320 to $3200]," reads the bill published in newspaper Shargh, as translated by The Guardian.

"Walking and playing with animals such as dogs and monkeys outdoors and in public places are harmful to the health and the peace of other people, especially kids and women, and are against our Islamic culture."

Al Arabiya reports that dogs caught in public would be seized and "transferred to a zoo or desert" at the owner's expense, though their fate beyond that is unclear. The law would not apply to "working" dogs.

This is the latest in a growing number of statements and policy updates that put canines in the crosshairs, particularly as dog ownership, once tolerated, has increasingly become synonymous with Western culture and resistance to hard-line ideology.

In 2010, Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi issued a fatwa against dog ownership, rebuking the idea by saying "there are lots of people in the West who love their dogs more than their wives and children." Last year, Iran made it illegal to have dogs in public or riding in a car; pet owners were warned that their dogs would be seized and killed.

That law drove many pet owners to keep their dogs indoors, but the proposed law states that pets at home will no longer be tolerated either.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a group of exiled Iranian leaders, sees the dog ownership ban as an excuse for the authoritarian government to exert control over the population.

"The Iranian regime periodically uses the issue of pets for public crackdowns. Using this pretext, the police stop cars, carry out searches, confiscate pets and fine women if they are considered improperly dress," writes the NCRI.

"The sporadic and politically motivated campaigns against dog ownership are aimed at further suppressing the youth and women in Iran who have, in past few weeks, held protests against the acid attacks on women that have been carried out by state-sponsored gangs."

According to Reuters, Iran's parliament recently passed a bill that allows regular citizens to uphold "morality" laws, which critics say has led to violent vigilantism.

Regardless of what the intent of the ban might be, there's little doubt that its passing will be a cause of distress to dog lovers in Iran, like 28-year-old Nahal, who told Agence France-Presse that her beloved dog was hardly an unclean animal:

"You see, for me, she is not only a pet but a family member."