Iranians took to the streets on April 19 to protest against the most recent spate of dog killings in Shiraz and other cities.
The Society of Animal Protection and Environmentalists organized the protest outside Shiraz Town Hall, responding to the news that anti-dog vigilantes in Shiraz had killed a number of dogs by injecting them with acid. People traveled from several provinces to take part in the demonstration.
Protesters held signs condemning the killing of dogs, calling for those responsible to be punished and expressing outrage that the animals had been subjected to such brutal treatment. “Animals feel pain exactly as humans do,” one of the protest placards read.
“Killing dogs has nothing to do with cleaning the city;” said another sign, drawing attention to some authorities’ tendency to associate dogs with uncleanliness. “Killing is forbidden: Sterilize and Vaccinate,” another sign read.
Some protesters focused on the immorality of such behavior. “The moral progress of a nation can be measured by how it treats its animals”; read one sign, whereas other signs warned that violence toward animals would lead to greater brutality within society.
“We are the voices of the voiceless,” said another sign. Another poster showed a photograph of a dog next to the caption: “God, you created me, so why do you let people kill me?” said another.
A group of Shiraz citizens petitioned the city’s mayor via text message: “We, the people of Shiraz, are by nature against war and bloodshed.” Shiraz was the gateway to civilization, they said, and authorities should not stand by while such barbaric acts were being carried out. Those who had carried out the acid attacks against dogs and proudly advertised the “cleansing” of Shiraz were damaging the reputation of the city, which was known for being “a city of love, literature and mysticism.”
In November, a group of MPs proposed a bill that would make it a crime to take a pet dog into a public space.
Authorities in Rasht and Kelardasht city municipality, north of Tehran, ordered the destruction of stray dogs earlier this year, and it was revealed in February that authorities in Bushehr had paid city employees shoot stray dogs.
Animal rights activist Ali Tabarzadi was briefly arrested in December after organizing an animal rights protest.
The Shiraz division of the Islamic Republic News Agency spoke to a number of protesters during last weekend’s event. “In certain regions of Shiraz, dogs are kept thirsty and hungry as a means of killing them," one protester said "It is a dreadful, inhumane crime.”
The same report said the executive deputy of Shiraz Municipality, Ramezan Amini, spoke to the protesters. He told them the Ministry of the Interior had ordered local authorities to “exterminate harmful animals.”
Amini emphasized that it was important to “control zoonotic diseases transferred from animals to humans.”
“The first step is to find out where stray dogs gather and control their population,” he said, adding that it was important for them to establish “the proper method for extermination” and that the promotion of “public awareness about urban hygiene and sanitation when confronting harmful animals” was crucial.
“One of the major problems with an increase in the dog population is the onset of epidemics of diseases among both humans and cattle. Stray dogs disturb public peace in cities and villages. They are also one of the main sources of pollution in parks and recreational spaces.”
Amini said that “unconventional methods of extermination” should not necessarily be approved or applied and that authorities needed to further assess the situation.
Protesters also gathered outside the Fars Province General Office for the Department of the Environment in Shiraz on Thursday April 16, two days prior to the larger demonstration outside city hall.
At that protest, the managing director of the Fars Department of the Environment told activists that it was not the department’s job to organize or supervise the extermination of dogs — and nor was determining the most effective method of eliminating dogs. As Ramezan Amini, Shiraz Municipality’s executive deputy told protesters two days later, this fell under the authority of the provincial municipal office.