This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Dozens of animal rights activists protested in the Iranian capital over the weekend against the abuse and killings of stray dogs by the municipality.
The protests were held outside Tehran’s city hall after a video emerged online showing the gruesome killings of stray dogs, including puppies, with injections that made them whine and cry in pain before dying. Activists said they believed the dogs had been put down with acid injections.
The video led to widespread outrage on social media, prompting activists to renew their calls for legislation to protect animals.
A woman in Tehran told RFE/RL that she joined the protest after watching the brutal treatment the stray dogs were subjected to.
“The cruelty is unbearable…. Why do we have to witness such behavior? It’s against humanity and it shows that we need a law to protect the poor animals,” the mother of two said.
“Today is the day of mourning,” some of the protesters chanted at the August 19 protest while others called for the resignation of Tehran’s “incompetent” mayor.
“Killer, come out. Killer, come out,” they chanted, according to videos posted online.
Many had signs that condemned the mistreatment of animals while saying “No to dog killing,” and calling for an end to the “brutal killing of God’s innocent creatures.”
Several people were reportedly detained at the August 19 protest which was met with force by security officials.
The head of the municipality’s communications team was quoted by domestic media as saying that the video was from two years ago and that the contractor in charge of the killing and a deputy had been fired.
“We do not allow any contractor or authority to treat God’s creatures in violation of human and Islamic values,” head of the municipality’s communications team, Gholamhossein Mohammadi, was quoted as saying by the official government news agency IRNA.
Tehran Mayor Pirouz Hanachi said on Twitter on August 19 that he had fired the contractor upon being informed of “violations” and that he also ordered “decisive” actions against violators while also taking measures to prevent such incidents in the future.
Hanachi said he had respect for the concerns of animal rights activists, while adding that taking care of the health and safety of citizens was among the duties of the municipality.
He claimed the animals that were killed suffered from “dangerous diseases,” though animal rights activists said that some of the killed dogs had been vaccinated by animal rights groups and had identification tags.
“Our friends knew some of the dogs, some of them had even been neutered by animal lovers,” Hossein Mohammadi, the founder of the animal shelter Sezar Sanctuary in northern Iran, told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda.
Mohammadi, who rescues sick, abused, and injured dogs, said that regardless of the time of the killing, those behind it should be held responsible.
“A crime is a crime regardless of when it happened,” he said.
Public criticism of animal cruelty has been mounting in recent years in the Islamic republic where pet ownership, including dogs that are considered dirty by conservative clerics, has been on the rise. In recent years, animal rights activists have staged several public protests in Tehran and other cities to condemn incidents of animal cruelty and call for humane treatment of dogs and other animals.
The number of dog shelters and citizens who feed stray dogs has also been increasing.
Mohammadi says Iranians are becoming increasingly sensitive about animal rights.
“I think we’ve managed to build a culture, to sensitize people that these animals have feelings, they can feel pain. I think we’ve influenced the people, but authorities don’t seem to want to get our concern,” he said.