TEHERAN: “No, my cat is not dangerous,” says the Iranian animal lover Mostafa, outraged by a proposal by ultra-conservative lawmakers to ban pets.
The 25-year-old, who runs a pet supplies store on busy Eskandari Street in downtown Tehran, is stunned.
“Crocodiles can be called dangerous, but how can rabbits, dogs and cats be dangerous?” He asked in disbelief about the bill that was introduced a month ago.
The proposed law turns growing numbers of people with pets against those who consider the practice decadent.
According to media reports, 75 MPs, or a quarter of MPs, recently signed a text entitled “Supporting the rights of the people in relation to harmful and dangerous animals”.
In their introduction, the authors condemn the coexistence of humans with domesticated animals as a “destructive social problem”.
The phenomenon, they explain, could “gradually change the Iranian and Islamic way of life” by “replacing human and family relationships with feelings and emotional relationships with animals.”
The proposed law would prohibit â€œthe importation, rearing, assisting with breeding, breeding, buying or selling, transportation, driving, walking, and keeping indoors of wild, exotic, noxious and dangerous animalsâ€.
The animals to be banned are listed as “crocodiles, turtles, snakes, lizards, cats, mice, rabbits, dogs and other unclean animals as well as monkeys”.
The perpetrators face a fine of 10 to 30 times the “minimum monthly wage” of about 98 US dollars and the “confiscation” of the animal.
In addition, vehicles used to transport the animal would be confiscated for three months.
While Iran is having difficult negotiations on its nuclear program and suffering a painful economic downturn due to US sanctions, the bill has sparked criticism in the press, ridicule on social media and anger among residents of the capital.
“These projects will certainly cause chaos, corruption and collective disobedience to this law because … living with animals is a cultural phenomenon today,” warned the reformist daily Shargh.
Some internet users responded with irony and sarcasm.
“How many times have cats tried to devour you so you would think they were wild, noxious and dangerous?” Asked journalist Yeganeh Khodami on Twitter.
Another posted a photo of his kitten with the message: “I’ve renamed my cat ‘Criminal’ since I heard this bill.”
An actress who wanted to remain anonymous said she was planning a demonstration against the pet ban plan in front of parliament but dropped the idea due to pressure on her.
Given the public outcry, few parliamentarians are prepared to vigorously defend the bill.
“I agree with the project in general, but certainly not with some of its clauses,” said the chairman of the Parliament’s Judicial Commission, Moussa Ghazanfarabadi, who signed the text.
“It’s just a bill, but whether it’s successful is another question,” he told AFP.
Another lawmaker from Tehran, environmentalist Somayeh Rifiei, said she believed a law was needed to determine which animals can and cannot be kept.
“Nobody can deny the services animals provide to humans, but this area needs regulation,” she said. “That is the basis of social life.”
She said that, in addition to the Pet Prohibition Act, â€œthe government has drafted a bill that will pay particular attention to biodiversity and wildlife. It deals with both animal rights and human rights.
“In general, I would rather see this bill on the agenda than a proposal that only focuses on criminalization.”
Sellers on Eskandari Street fear the consequences of such a law.
“It could kill thousands of jobs,” said Mohsen, 34.
His wife Mina said she was more worried about her dog.
“Why should I lock him up at home?” she said of her canine companion. â€œMEPs probably assume that young couples don’t have children today because they have a dog, but that’s stupid.
â€œIt’s not the dogs, but the economic conditions that don’t allow us to have children,â€ she added.
â€œThey once banned satellite TV, but people continued to use it, but with fear and fear. People will keep their animals at home to protect them. “