With one million pets in the city of Tehran, veterinarian Payam Mohebi is putting himself at risk in an unprecedented campaign for animal rights, and more specifically, for the right of animal lovers to have pets in their homes.
Dr. Mohebi, who is running for one of the 21 seats on Tehran’s City Council, is shown on the posters posing with a stray dog. In most countries, that would hardly turn a head. But in Iran, where the ruling clerics consider dogs impure, taking one for a walk risks the arrest of the owner and the seizure, and possible extermination, of the animal.
I’m doing this so that one seat in the City Council will be for the animals,” he said. “They live with us, we love them, they have rights too.”
The doctor says he knows about all that, but is willing to take the risk.
The campaign for the Tehran City Council this year is proving to be a spectacle, one that provides an unusual perspective on Iranian society.
Dr. Mohebi has spent most of his life fighting for animal rights — or to be more precise, fighting for the right of people to have pets in their houses. In 2002, he started Tehran’s first pet hospital at a time when few people there had dogs and cats. Now, he is planning to open a 10-story clinic in West Tehran that will be one of the largest in the Middle East.
People said I was crazy, but I saw change coming,” he said. “Iranians wanted pets.”
Tehran has changed over the past 15 years, Dr. Mohebi said. There is more money, more freedom and more attention to social rights, he said.
But that did not stop Parliament three years ago, when it was still dominated by hard-liners, from passing a law that increased the fines for dog owners to the equivalent of $2,500, as well as killing the animal and 60 lashes for the owner.
“We have one million pets in this city — what are they thinking?” Dr. Mohebi said. “There is a massive gap between our politicians and us.”
If he is elected, Dr. Mohebi said, there will be no more killings.
In a video posted on Youtube, Dr. Mohebi said the need for dogs have always been great.
The necessity of dogs accompanying humans is so great that right now in Iran the police forces, the Red Crescent and the military have their own dogs and they use dogs to meet their needs. Truly they have no replacements for dogs and for example they might not be able to use any other animal in search and rescue operations to find live victims buried under wreckage.”
Dr. Mohebi said his job and other veterinarians in the country who do the same thing are not operating with 100 per cent support from the government.
It looks like our job in Iran is semi-legal. The Iranian Veterinary organisation as a part of the government has authorised us to establish the pet hospital but when pet owners try to take their pets to the hospital, the police might stop them and ask them not to carry dogs in their cars.”
The Iranian government says that keeping pets is ‘un-Islamic’ as they are considered unclean.
Tina Hosseinzadeh, the owner of a fluffy white dog says she can’t take her eg to the park and has to play with him in the backyard. owner of a fluffy white dog.
She says she can’t take him to the park so she plays with him in the back yard.