In search of ponies: Iran difficult for dogs, owners

Maybe Snoopy saw it coming.
Sign after sign popping up with the deep voice that lamented “No dogs allowed.”
But it was the 70’s, and even though endearing, Snoopy was still a dog.
Yet in a world where pets have gone from being rejected to tolerated to welcomed and even catered to, it’s more than the hands on the clock just turning backwards — more accurately, it’s a rejection of anything that smacks of western culture.
For Americans it’s pretty simple.
A walk through the kennels at the local shelter presents dozens of options, some barking, some giving the sweetest sad faces on the planet.
Or there are the classifieds and Internet resources, neighbors, friends, even folks parked outside of local stores with signs and squirming fur balls.
Spontaneous, well planned, expensive or adopted, if someone wants a dog, there are few if any obstacles in their way.
But in Iran, adding that baby barker to the family can often only be accomplished through back room and sometimes shady deals.
And getting a dog is where the challenges begin, especially when the government makes it clear dogs are not allowed.
Culturally viewed as unclean, dogs have traditionally lived on the fringes of Muslim societies, used in working roles and certainly present, but frowned on as pets.
Not everyone, however, sees dogs only with disdain, and a fair share of hearts have melted.
Convinced the desire to keep dogs as pets is influenced by western culture, via the speed and pervasiveness of information these days, the Iranian government is not happy to see a love of dogs growing throughout the population.
Iranian leaders make no attempt to muzzle their disgust for pooches either, openly threatening to put an end to the practice of dogs as pets, seeing them as a vulgar reflection of the western world that loves and embraces them.
It’s not illegal to own a dog, according to a recent story in the New York Daily News , but Iran has clamped down on advertising dogs and dog accessories, forbidden them from being sold in pet stores, and is now threatening to confiscate any dogs seen being walked and to impound dogs and any vehicles they are transported in.
Dog lovers in Iran report to media outlets that they are terrified their beloved pets will be taken or even killed in the government’s efforts to squelch anything that rings of western ways.
No doubt there are rough days ahead for those Iranians who have opened their hearts and homes to dogs, and it is quite possible Iranian dogs will suffer much if promises are kept by officials.
But now that they’re head over paws for pooches, Iranian dog lovers aren’t likely to forgive or forget, and officially kicking the dog might just backfire before it’s all said and done.
Ironically, by trying to demand and force disgust for dogs, Iran is more likely to create a national martyr and symbol for freedom.
Whether it ends up being a poofy Pomeranian or a stout hound that adorns the flag of independence for Iran, the dog may just accomplish what years of politics and fighting couldn’t.
After all centuries of hatred don’t stand a chance against hearts that don’t discriminate, unfaltering loyalty and tender eyes that tug at the soul.

 Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: or on the web at: