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Society & Culture

“We must send a message: Killing animals is wrong”

June 9, 2015
Shima Shahrabi
5 min read
“We must send a message: Killing animals is wrong”

Lawyer Farshid Rofugaran has agreed to take on two prominent cases involving the killing of dogs in Iran. In recent months, civil society activists, dog owners and animal lovers have spoken out against the treatment of dogs, which has been most dramatically highlighted by the spate of killings of dogs in Shiraz and a Tehran police officer’s brutal killing of a pet dog in front of its owners.

The killings follow calls for dog owners to face heavy fines and even lashes. A group of 32 MPs tabled a bill in November that would make it an offence to own pets. 

In Shiraz, vigilantes were blamed for killing dogs by injecting them with acid. Many in Iran condemned the killings, particularly after a video showing dogs being injected with an unknown liquid was published online.

Then in May, a police officer shot and killed a pet dog, Bobby, in front of its owners.

Farshid Rofugaran will defend the Society for the Protection of Animals in the Shiraz case. In the second case, the plaintiffs are Bobby’s family.

I asked Rofugaran about the two cases, and what he hoped the court proceedings would achieve.


Where does the Shiraz case stand? Are you hopeful that the judicial authorities will process it?

From a legal point of view, there are no explicit laws about the situation. In Iran’s penal code, there are punishments for abusing domesticated animals. Article 13 of the Hunting Laws specifically refers to punishments for abusing or killing wild animals. But there is a legal vacuum when it comes to animals such as dogs, cats or crows.


So on what laws you have based your case?

I relied on the general principles of Islamic jurisprudence and used edicts by Islamic jurists who have declared that abusing and killing animals is not permitted. Since this is a banned act and was committed in public, it is punishable based on Article 638 of the Islamic Penal Code. [“Anyone in public places and roads who openly commits a haram (sinful) act, in addition to the punishment provided for the act, shall be sentenced to two months’ imprisonment or up to 74 lashes...”.]

Of course, this is a weak argument, since in our penal laws, the interpretation of the law must be biased towards the defendant. And I know that even if the accused is punished, the punishment will not be significant. But we filed the complaint to send a message: The public conscience is uneasy, the law is deficient and lawmakers must do something about it.


How did the judiciary react?

Dr. Al-e Davoud, the director of the Society for the Protection of Animals, gave me power of attorney and I filed a complaint. But when I presented the complaint to the Shiraz public prosecutor personally, I was told that a few days earlier the Environmental Protection Organization had also filed a complaint. As a result, the two cases were merged. A few days ago, I went to see the assistant district attorney. He told me that clues about those responsible had been uncovered, but that there was no other news. The investigation is not yet complete.


Did you base complaint in the case of Bobby on the same Islamic jurisprudence conclusions?

No. In Bobby’s owners’ case, we listed criminal charges in the complaint. First of all, my clients have suffered from acute mental distress. Ashkan, whose dog was killed in front of his eyes, suffered a speech impediment and stutters. Secondly, hunting and guard dogs are the legal and legitimate properties of people. Article 677 of the Islamic Penal Code deems destruction of this property to be punishable. [“Anyone who destroys or damages or ruins someone else’s movable belongings or real estate shall be sentenced to six months to three years’ imprisonment.”] Our last point in the complaint concerns laws that govern the use of firearms by armed security agents.


So there is there some more hope for this case when compared to the Shiraz case?

The complaint referring to Bobby was filed with Branch 5 of Tehran’s Prosecutor’s Office. The case was sent to the police station a couple of times and was then sent to another prosecution office. Today, my client called and said that they were confused because they did not know where the case was. Next week I am going to Tehran to pursue the matter. I think the case is changing hands until they decide which prosecution office holds jurisdiction.


You said before that you want to send a message to the culprits. Won’t this complicate the legal process?

Punishing those responsible is not our sole goal. We do want to get to the root of these events and punish those who have committed these crimes, so that they know that what they have done is illegal. But the other goal is to make lawmakers aware that loopholes exists, that people have been hurt emotionally by reading this news, seeing these images, and watching the video footage.

Also, people must be made aware that if their own rights are important to them, these rights can be pursued and protected. The killing of dogs in Shiraz is not more tragic than the killing of bears in Ardebil or setting a donkey on fire in Isfahan’s Semirom County — but the event had a great impact because the video was published on social networks.

There is a silver lining. The recent outcry made both the public and authorities more sensitive. A few days ago in Shiraz, as I was going to work I noticed that people had placed a simple basin under a tree. Underneath there was a sign that said: “Water for Birds & Cats.”

This is priceless.


Support IranWire’s Being a Dog is not a Crime campaign, showing solidarity with Iran’s animal rights movement and its promotion of non-violence.


Read more about cruelty to animals in Iran — and public reaction to it.

Iran’s Weekly Wire 15: Dogs, Iran’s Political Animals

Man is a Beast to Man: Human and Animal Rights in Iran

"Being A Dog Is Not A Crime!"

"Stop Killing Dogs"

Killing “Dirty” Dogs

City Employees Kill Stray Dogs for Cash

Officials Order “Destruction” of Stray Dogs in Rasht

Hunters Asked to Control Stray Dog Population

Crime: Owning a Pet

The Stray Dogs of Tabriz — and the Woman Who Saved Them

"It's like losing your sister!"


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