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Iran is going to the dogs

David Epps's picture

The nation of Iran is going to the dogs. No, they really are. Literally. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal ((July 18, 2011), Iranians are going to great measures to defy an Islamic Republic edict: buying and selling dogs.

Apparently, in Islam, dogs are considered to be unclean. However, access to satellite television, where Iranians can view American programs showing families playing with dogs, has turned dog ownership into both a sign of social status and as a means of protest. Some people are now going to great lengths to purchase canines and give them as birthday presents. Top dogs are being sold for as much as $10,000 and potential buyers must undergo a rigorous interview to prove they are not police officers and then some breeders will blindfold the purchaser on the trip to and from where the dogs are kept.

The government is taking the pooch peddling seriously. In 2010, Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi issued a fatwa denouncing dog ownership. Then last April Iran’s parliament passed a bill criminalizing dog ownership, calling it a sign of “vulgar Western values.” The punishment for dog ownership can be up to $500 if a dog is seen in a public place. If a dog is seen in a car and is not in a carrier, cars can be confiscated and driver’s licenses suspended.

One clandestine website offers dogs for sale for an up-front payment that ranges from $500 to $10,000. The money must first be wired into a bank account and the pet is delivered two weeks later by a truck driver who hides Fido in the cargo. Some dogs are being smuggled into the country from the Ukraine, Armenia, and Turkey.

There are problems, of course. Pet owners are resorting to walking their dogs at night in order to avoid detection, with some even walking their dogs on the flat roofs of homes and apartment buildings. One art student bought a St. Bernard puppy from a student coming in from Moscow. Now the dog is the size of a small pony and she doesn’t know what to do with it in her small apartment.

According to the article in the Journal, a police officer spied a white terrier in the car of a 24-year-old owner and gave chase. When the car was finally pulled over, the owner opened the door to let the dog escape but the dog cop pulled his gun to shoot the animal. The owner threw himself on the pet and said, “You have to shoot me before you kill him.” Neighbors, seeing the commotion, came out to defend pet and owner and the police backed off. But not before suspending the owner’s driver’s license for six months and taking away his car for three months.

Apparently, for many Iranians, the risk is worth the reward of experiencing the reality of “man’s best friend.” The world is worried about Iran procuring nuclear weapons. The government of Iran is worried about its citizens owning dogs. But, like it or not, the people of Iran are making their choices. They are going to the dogs.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. ( He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese ( and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Fellowship in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at]

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