In what’s been called the “war on dogs” in Iran, it’s traditionally considered improper to own a dog, which is the norm in Western cultures, and it is even illegal to walk them in public places. Because of this ideology, stray dogs are plentiful because no one bothers to spay and neuter them, adding to the idea that all dogs are unclean, and resulting in mass, absolutely horrendous killings to lessen the population.
It’s with unspeakable means that even the government gets involved with these mass killings and Aradkouh Stray Dogs Shelter wants to help change people’s perspective. The shelter is located in Tehran, the nation’s capital, making it the perfect place to erase the stigma around loving dogs and even owning them.
The laws surrounding dogs have been less than kind, as legislation even targeting domestic dogs has been on the ballot from those that base their view of dogs on strict Islamic teachings. Lawmakers have attempted to make it illegal to keep a dog as a pet, but thankfully, so far, they have not succeeded.
Hassan Heidari, director of Tehran’s Urban Animal Control Department, told the Associated Press that Islam is the reason that this humane shelter is a necessity and that it must stress its message of love and acceptance in order to reach Iranians.
“From a moral and Islamic point of view, we are not allowed to treat these animals violently,” he said. “Observance of animal rights was another motive that made us stop killing dogs.”
Video of stray dogs being injected in the legs, presumably with acid, and dumped with other dying dogs as they agonized and cried went viral in the last two years and is largely what sparked so much outrage and a need for change. An animal activist that recorded video of the horrific incident reported that private contractors are given $4 by the government for every stray dog they kill, but the Iranian government has denied all involvement with the killings.
Now, instead of being injected with acid, urban animal control officers set out on mornings after they hear of reports of strays somewhere in the city so that they can instead be injected with an anesthetic. It may seem inhumane or unnecessary to shoot the dogs into mobility, but their long distrust of humans based on the past makes it difficult to catch them traditionally.
There are no official numbers on how many stray dogs there are in the city, as it’s truly immeasurable and most of the poorer districts with the most dogs don’t care to take any kind of tally. The shelter captures about 30 to 40 dogs per day and it’s normal for them to care for more than 600 dogs at a time. All of the dogs are available for adoption after they are spayed or neutered, microchipped, and given a collar, however with so few Iranians in the market for a pet dog they often must release the dog back to their area. At least with the spaying and neutering, fewer dogs will be walking the streets in the future, creating less unwanted dogs and inhumane acts against them.
Although citizens continue to condemn dogs, the culture surrounding these precious animals is slowly shifting thanks to the immense efforts by the shelter.