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Society & Culture

Residents Attack Dog Shelter Owner with Machete

September 2, 2015
Shima Shahrabi
4 min read
Residents Attack Dog Shelter Owner with Machete

Protesters have vandalized the shelter, posting abusive graffiti on its walls. They have threatened her and thrown stones at her, chanting “Goodbye, dog lover!” Her car windows have been smashed.  And now they have gone a step further: last week, one protester attacked her with a machete.

Haleh Boroumand, the founder of a shelter for street dogs in the village of Varamin near Tehran, has seen the attacks against her increase over a number of days. On August 24, the protesters — who delivered their sinister farewell message in English —  resorted to direct violence.

“They told me: ‘get out of here, dog lover. You are unclean. The dogs are unclean,’” Boroumand told IranWire, referring to the protesters, Varamin residents who object to the shelter.

“In the evening when all animal supporters and workers had left the shelter, the nephew of the owner, who had threatened me before, came into the shelter with a machete. He started cursing and then attacked me and cut a vein in my hand.”

“I only saw one man and quickly ran outside to escape,” she said. “I could not see whether there were others or not. I called the car service and went to Varamin’s Mofatteh Hospital. They told me that I must go to Taleghani Hospital in Tehran. I called Sepehr Animal Protection and they came to the hospital.”

Doctors performed minor surgery on Boroumand’s hand. “Since we thought the dogs were in danger, we transferred them to a small place in Karaj.” But because they had to move so quickly, she said, they did not have time to bring all their supplies and equipment.

When I called Boroumand, she was at the shelter, moving out furniture and equipment. The place was destroyed, she said, almost unable to believe it. “They took away what they could and was useful to them and smashed whatever else remained. I had left my car behind. They broke the windows and stole the engine and the battery. The car is being towed away right now.”

Her shelter was home to around 100 dogs. “With the help of supporters, we take care of them, give them anti-parasite medicine and vaccinate them so that these innocent animals can survive,” she said. Then she apologized, saying she had to go because the tow-cable for her car had just broken.

“Varamin shelter was located in an underprivileged area and lacked minimum facilities,” Ali Tabarzadi, a member of the Sepehr Animal Protection team who helped Boroumand’s shelter, told IranWire. “The water supply was often interrupted. Electricity was low voltage and there were frequent blackouts. Animal advocates helped us to get a tank and a pump so that the dogs would have water at all times.”


Cattle Yes, Dogs No

But then the protests began, with demonstrators pelting the shelter with rocks. “The shelter is actually in a village and the residents, out of ignorance, think that keeping dogs might spread disease. But the vet has approved the food given to the dogs and their sanitary conditions.” Tabarzadi says that, since the threats began, they have been looking for a new location for the shelter. “We have encountered two problems. Either a suitable rental location requires a lot of money up front, which we cannot afford, or the landlords tell us they will not rent their property for the purpose of keeping dogs. They would rent it out for keeping cattle, but not dogs, because ‘they are unclean’. So we have not been able to find a suitable place.”

Tabarzadi believes that if the city and provincial authorities had done their job and sterilized stray dogs, these problems would not have arisen. “Unfortunately, municipal authorities outsource the job to greedy contractors who are unable to manage it. Sterilization centers become slaughterhouses of innocent animals,” he said. According to Tabarzadi, who has been a prominent advocate for animal rights, municipalities pay around 40,000 tomans (just over $13), to people who capture a dog, dead or alive. He says if the same money was spent on vaccination and sterilization, and then on releasing the stray dogs into the countryside, the problem would be solved.

Tabarzadi founded the Sepehr Center for Protection of Animals along with a group of animal advocates. The center provides food for stray dogs outside Tehran. They also sterilize and mark the dogs so that they know they have been sterilized. “We cannot do much,” he said. “How much can self-motivated advocates do? Not only are there no laws to protect the dogs, but afterwards, we often see that the same dogs are killed by the municipality contractors anyway.”

I talked to Tabarzadi on August 26 — International Dog Day. “Would that my country had laws to protect these kind animals!” Tabarzadi said. “I wish that human beings were kind enough not to treat dogs or their advocates this way. Why should anybody attack someone who takes care of animals with a machete?”

While she could hear “goodbye dog lover” chants in the background, Haleh Boroumand talked about the complaint she had filed with the police. But she knows this is not the end, and she continues to be targeted and harassed by stone-throwers and abusive protesters. 


Related articles:

The Trials and Trepidations of Iranian Pet Lovers

Podcast: Dogs, Iran’s Political Animals

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


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