Iranian authorities are confiscating pet dogs and placing them in a dog jail, according to media reports.

The Middle East news site Al-Monitor reports that thirty dogs have died of starvation or thirst in one Iranian “dog jail” outside Tehran.

Iranian authorities this spring warned dog owners not to walk their dogs in public or take them in their cars lest they risk arrest of their canine pets.

Iran Is Arresting Dogs Considered by Many Muslims to Be Unclean

An Iranian woman plays with a dog as she brings food donations to the first animal shelter in Iran. The non-government charity relies on private donations and volunteers to provide shelter to injured and homeless dogs in Iran. (Photo: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

Deputy Commander of the Iranian Police Ahmad-Reza Radan said, “As summer approaches, we will make an effort to stop people from bringing out their dogs in their cars or parading them on the streets to show off. We won’t have any of that.”

In April, Radan was quoted by the Fars news agency saying that police would “confront those who walk their dogs in the streets. Cars carrying dogs will also be impounded.”

Iranian-American journalist Mehrnaz Samimi writes in Al-Monitor what she is hearing from friends and relatives in Iran about the plight of pets and their owners [emphasis added]:

My cousin who lives in Tehran owns a small fluffy white dog that was taken away from her as she walked it. The dogs are literally “arrested” and taken to jail. Some are freed through posting bail, others that remain unaccounted for are taken to dog prisons; one of the better known ones is in Kahrizak. Imprisoned dogs are kept in extremely poor conditions, usually among garbage, and often times without adequate food and water.

Iran Is Arresting Dogs Considered by Many Muslims to Be Unclean

Iranian woman poses for a picture with her dog in Tehran on May 28. (Photo: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

Iranian authorities have over the years launched crackdowns on dog-ownership, but according to AFP, dogs were usually returned after owners paid a fine and signed a pledge “to observe the moral code.” That no longer appears to be the case.

“Owners are being told that their dogs will be killed, and no paper (confirming the confiscation) is given to them,” a Tehran pet hospital chief, Payam Mohebi, was quoted as saying by the Bahar daily, according to AFP.

AFP provides this background:

For decades, keeping dogs as pets was a rarity and thus tolerated in Iran, where the Islamic beliefs cherished by the vast majority of traditional Iranians consider dogs as “najis”, or unclean.

Guard dogs, sheep dogs and hounds have always been acceptable, but the soaring number of pets acquired by a middle class keen to imitate Western culture has alarmed the authorities in recent years.

They have now criminalised walking dogs in public, or driving them around the city.

Al-Monitor’s Samimi reports that dog ownership is so rare that it’s not easy to find a veterinarian or pet food. She writes [emphasis added]:

In a phone conversation with my friend whose dog was arrested and jailed for nearly two weeks, she described the emotional trauma she was put through until she was able to get together a hefty amount of money for bailing her dog out: “When they grabbed and took Max away, I wept, asking them to let him go. I kept calling out Max’s name and begging the guards to give my baby back. It was at that moment — when I called him my baby — that two of the guards really lost it. They used profanity, yelling, “You spoiled rich people don’t know what life’s real problems are! People don’t have enough money to buy bread and you are crying for a filthy good-for-nothing dog?! Shame on you! There are so many orphans in this country and you call this dirty thing your baby?! You should be ashamed of yourself!”

Samimi’s uncle has two German Shepherds, but he can’t walk them for fear they will be confiscated. Instead, he keeps the dogs locked up in the yard rather than taking them mountain climbing as he did in the past.

He told his niece, “Well, I guess Rex and Joey would be luckier than us if they get to migrate to America. At least two of our family members would lead a better life.”

Read Samimi’s full story here.