Iran may be about to ban ownership of dogs, cats, and who knows what else

Persian cats – soon to be illegal in the land from which they came? Dogs as well – and almost everything else.

Via Ali Hamedani and the BBC:

The country where having a pet could soon land you in jail

“He looks at me with his innocent and beautiful eyes. He is asking me to take him out for a walk, but I don’t dare. We will get arrested.”

Mahsa, who has a dog, is referring to a new wave of arrests of pet owners and seizures of their animals in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Police there recently announced that walking dogs in parks was a crime. The ban was justified as a measure to “protect the safety of the public”.

At the same, the Iranian restrict could soon approve the Protection of the Public’s Rights Against Animals bill, which would pet ownership across the board.

According to the proposed legislation, pet ownership would be subject to a permit issued by a special committee. There would also be a minimum fine of around $800 (790 euros; £670) for the “import, purchase and sale, transportation and keeping” of a range of animals, including common 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,” Dr Payam Mohebi, the president of the Iran Veterinary Association and an opponent of the bill, told the BBC.

The original focus of the legislation is dogs, which according to the BBC report are considered impure in Islamic tradition — and also a symbol of Westernization. However, cats and other pets are also being caught up by religious hardliners for… reasons.

While there were animal protection laws in the country first passed in 1948, the Islamic Revolution has overturned much of Iranian life. The current regime has been cracking down on pet ownership, including seizures, locking dogs up in ‘canine prisons’ under terrible conditions, and proposing beatings for dog owners.

Part of it is because of the sanctions imposed on the country; importing pet food uses up foreign currency reserves, and prices are skyrocketing. Iranian pet food is described as being really bad.

The article quotes a veterinarian as saying the real driving force behind the proposed ban and other restrictions is about the hardliners demonstrating the power they have as much as anything.

It’s important to note that the bill is being drafted in the Iranian parliament by 75 hardliners, but the body has 290 members. None of the reports have anything to say about the likelihood of the bill passing into law. It’s possible this whole debate is performative, but we’ll see.

The theory of authoritarian regimes (see Altemeyer) describes the important role of the scapegoat mechanism. Authoritarian leaders provide their followers with targets to absorb their need for things to blame for everything that makes them angry and afraid — and to distract away from the failures of the leaders to ‘fix’ everything. Dogs and other pets are being targeted for that purpose.

Considering the strict interpretation of Islam imposed on the country following the revolution, they’ve already gone after all the easy targets. No one and nothing is safe when authoritarians need a scapegoat. Anything can be criminalized. Anything — especially if you are willing to claim it is “God’s will.” Further, criminalization is another way of justifying state force to control people and keep them off-balanced and afraid.

This, of course, could never happen in America…. right?

“Protection of the Public’s Rights Against Animals bill” sounds remarkably like the kind of framing Republicans use all the time when they’re pushing the latest hot button issue they’ve contrived to rile up their base. It can — and is — happening here. Republicans aren’t crazy enough to go after our pets yet, but all pets are off.

They’ve kept their base glued to them for years by promising to overturn Roe v. Wade, but now that “the dog has caught the car it was chasing” — what are they going to do with it? And what are we going to do with them?

More reports on the Iranian bill here, here, here, and here.



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