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IRAN: Pet-product advertising banned as dog owners come under fire

August 25, 2010 |  7:53 am
Pet-clinic-Isfahan3

Iranian authorities are cracking down, but this time their target isn't political dissidents or drug traffickers. It's dogs.

Or rather, pets in general. This week, Ayatollah Nasser Makkarem Shirazi, a powerful cleric, issued a fatwa that was later passed into law banning any advertisements about pets or alluding to the buying, selling or keeping of pets, according to the Mehr news agency.

The fatwa was issued in response to a question by the country's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which serves as Iran's censor. 

The ministry's Advertisement and Information Dissemination Office  vowed to crack down on ads promoting pet foods, especially for cats and dogs.

In June, Shirazi issued a fatwa against keeping dogs as pets, although that ruling was not made into law. At the time, Shirazi slammed dog owners for "blindly imitating the West," which, he said, would result in "evil outcomes."

"Many people in the West love their dogs more than their wives and children," he said.

The fatwa cites Islamic tradition, which dictates dogs are unclean based on testimonies from the followers of the prophet Mohammad known as hadith.

Keeping dogs as pets has become fashionable among Iranians in recent years, especially among well-to-do urban families. Although pet dogs are not technically illegal, walking a dog in a public place like a park can earn the owner a hefty fine.

A report on Shirazi's fatwa against pet dogs that appeared in the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper speculated that the crackdown on pets may have more to do with class politics than Islamic law. The ruling conservative party has traditionally championed the working class while painting opposition activists as frivolous, corrupt cosmopolitans.

“The authorities can’t stop people from buying expensive cars or clothes and jewelery,” an unnamed analyst in Tehran told the paper. “But they can prevent them from displaying their wealth by keeping pet dogs on the grounds that they are unclean.”

But  rather than discourage people from buying dogs, one pet-shop owner reported an increase in the sale of small dogs that are easy to hide.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Pet owners at a veterinary clinic in Isfahan. Credit: Mehr News

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