Dogs café in Tehran sealed amid ‘illegal activity’ allegations

Dogs café in Tehran sealed amid ‘illegal activity’ allegations
Iranian authorities have closed a dog cafe in the city. / CC: Taze News
By bne Gulf bureau May 30, 2024

Iranian authorities have sealed a controversial establishment known as the "Dogs Café" in Tehran following allegations of illegal activities, a police official said on May 28.

Despite an effective prohibition on dogs as pets in Iran, many Iranians are defying the rules and embracing canine companions, fuelling a thriving market for the purchase and sale of dogs. Iranian officials previously said that according to Islam, dogs are considered to be dirty or “narjess”, and people who own them are "influenced by Western media and lifestyles".

The café's closure came after a promotional video surfaced on Instagram, showcasing the site’s alleged unlawful operations of dogs frolicking around.

Located on upmarket Andarzgoo Street, in the north of the capital, the venue was a commercial and recreational space, raising concerns among local authorities forcing them to act.

"The Dogs Café was sealed in accordance with the law after a video advertisement of its illegal activities emerged," Colonel Ali Rafiei, the Deputy for Supervision of Public Places in the FATB Intelligence Police, told Mehr News Agency.

Animal cafés, particularly those featuring dogs, have gained popularity in Iran in recent years with several springing up across the city.

Over the past decade authorities in Tehran have repeatedly attempted to crack down on dog ownership, with police citing immoral and un-Islamic behaviour as valid cause to seize pets, there have been large backlashes by pet owners who in some cases have been arrested after fighting with police.

Despite the push to ban dogs, growing numbers of young couples, both liberal and some religious, are opting for dog ownership over having children in many circumstances, with even clerics in the country noticing the issue.

The closure has prompted reactions with several people annoyed with the local police’s anti-pet stance.

"I'm disappointed by the closure of the Dogs Café. It was a unique place where animal lovers could gather and enjoy the company of friendly dogs. I hope the authorities reconsider their decision," Maryam, who didn’t want to give her surname, told bne IntelliNews.

"I'm not surprised by the closure. Running a business centred around dogs is a risky venture in Iran, given the legal and cultural challenges. I hope the owners of the Dogs Café can find a way to operate within the boundaries of the law," said Mohammad, a local business owner.

Dog breeders in Iran have special dispensation, with many officially registered with the state, to further complicate and confuse matters.

Those breeding centres around Tehran and across the country have ongoing contracts with police and security companies for sniffer and guard dogs.