Images of street dogs being rounded-up and collected by a garbage compression truck, by municipal officials in the city of Salmas, in West Azerbaijan, has provoked widespread protests in the media and online.

The Rokna news agency reported that the Salmas municipality was using the trucks to destroy the animals and to dump them as garbage. The news agency also reported that some citizens in Salmas had witnessed the “heartbreaking” scenes.

Following protests online, the public relations department of Salmas issued a statement denying the killing of stray dogs by a garbage truck in the city.

Omid Soltani, the Salmas public relations director, told Rokna’s social reporter that the garbage truck was not used to kill the dogs but to transport them to their shelters. He added: “There is no such behavior towards dogs among Salmas municipality officials. The officials were driving in the garbage truck when they saw the dogs as they passed through the area. The truck’s compression device was off and the car was empty. Dogs were put in the truck to take care of them, and no cruelty has been done to these animals."

Soltani also said: "This municipality has signed a contract with Tabriz Pardis Company to re-house stray dogs. The municipality tries to secure the dogs alive and to transport them to a temporary shelter to be finally handed to Tabriz Pardis Company.”

The Salmas mayor even released a video of an apparent visit to the shelter.

But neither the mayor nor the public relations director explained why a garbagetruck was used, even if it was turned off and empty, to transport the dogs, given that these vehicles would also be unhygienic and dangerous for the dogs. City officials have also not explained what they meant by “secur[ing] the dogs alive.”

A city resident told IranWire: "I cannot confirm or deny that the dogs were compressed in the municipal garbage truck, but the killing of dogs by municipal officials in this city is not unprecedented. The dog shelter, in the video was released, has newly been allocated for this purpose, and before that, all the dogs that were collected across the city were killed by municipal officials."

"The municipality has started collecting dogs at the request of the people," he said. “Because there is no supervision over these dogs, they are not vaccinated or neutered. Sometimes in some areas the number [of dogs] is so high that people are not safe. The noise of the dogs and the possibility of them attacking children made people ask the municipality to think about this situation. But I am not happy with the way the municipality treats these creatures of God. I mean, no one is happy."

"This is not the first time that municipal officials have collected dogs from the city using a garbage truck," the resident added. “Salmas has no trained team or the facilities to carry out this task. … Sometimes dogs are thrown in the trunk of a car and taken away. Sometimes it’s with Nissan vans and sometimes with garbage trucks. I have even witnessed many times when municipal officials tied a rope around the necks of these animals … The people of Salmas want the street dogs situation to be addressed, but not for the municipality to torture these poor animals …”

Salmas has claimed that it is rescuing and transfering the dogs to Tabriz Pardis Company; however, Jila Pour-Irani, the company’s director, was one of the first to protest against the behavior of Salmas officials with respect to the dogs, on his official Instagram page.

"Nowhere, except here, do they collect dogs in a garbage truck full of viruses and dirt, especially a mechanical truck," she wrote in an Instagram post. “Animal-hostile behavior is rampant in this country, and everyone is putting their hands under their chins and watching. It seems that these animals are not alive and are made of concrete and cement."

Pour-Irani also objected to the video released by the Salmas mayor in which he gave was showing off a temporary shelter for keeping stray dogs, saying: "This is the best condition for dogs! Why do municipalities always have to act after the people protest? Why they are so disrespectful towards these poor creatures and no action is taken at all in relation to adoption of a law to ban animal abuse? In a meeting with us, Dr. Davoodi, a member of parliament from Sarab, promised to follow-up and to take action; but we are tired of empty promises. Keeping animals in a ruin, and a puppy next to a big dog, and all of them close to each other, is very questionable."

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