Pet owners in Iran could soon be punished and face fines or penalties, if parliament passes a new bill to restrict the ownership of domestic animals across the country, the BBC reported on Tuesday.
Under the proposed legislation, to own a pet, residents in Iran must obtain a permit from a special committee, according to the BBC.
There would also reportedly be a minimum fine of around $800 for the “import, purchase and sale, transportation and keeping” of certain animals, including pets such as cats, turtles and rabbits.
“Debates around this bill started more than a decade ago, when a group of Iranian MPs tried to promote a law to confiscate all dogs and give them to zoos or leave them in deserts,” President of the Iran Veterinary Association and an opponent of the bill Dr Payam Moheni, told the BBC.
“Over the years, they have changed this a couple of times and even discussed corporal punishment for dog owners. But their plan didn't get anywhere”
Authorities have recently been clamping down on pet ownership in Iran, with a new wave of arrests of pet owners and seizures of their animals in Iranian capital city, Tehran, the British broadcaster said.
Police also reportedly recently announced that walking dogs in the park was a crime, the BBC said, justified as a measure to “protect the safety of the public.”
Owning dogs, for example, has always been common in rural parts of the country according to the BBC, even though dogs are considered impure in Islamic tradition.
But in the eyes of the current regime dogs also reportedly became a symbol of the “Westernization” that it seeks to curb.
“Police forces arrest people for walking their dogs or even carrying them in their cars based on their interpretation of what could be seen as symbols of Westernization,” Ashkan Shemirani, a Tehran-based veterinarian, told the BBC.
Shemirani told the BBC that authorities even created a “prison” for the seized pets.
“The animals were kept for many days in open areas without proper food or water while the dog owners were going through all kinds of legal trouble,” he added.
Authorities have also reportedly banned imports of pet food for more than three years as part of a push to preserve the country's foreign currency reserves.
But that caused a spike in local prices, especially after the establishment of an underground market, the BBC said.
“We are highly dependent on people who smuggle in food secretly,” the owner of a veterinary clinic in the city of Mashhad told the BBC.
“The prices are now five times what they were just a few months ago.”