Dogfighting resurfaces in Iran
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2008:
(Actual publication date 11-5-08.)
TEHRAN A fluffy white lap dog displayed at the Farzi web site Meydan Dog might hint that Iranian hostility toward dogs is lifting. But multiple muzzle views of fighting dogs send a different message.
Meydan Dog belongs to someone who sells puppies and fighting dogs in Iran, Center for Animal Lovers founder Fatehmah Motamedi told ANIMAL PEOPLE. There were people in Iran who arranged dog fights in secret, but now they are advertising.
Living in exile since 2006, Motamedi in 2004 opened the only animal shelter in Iran. It continues under successors.
The Iranian government has discouraged dog-keeping since the 1980 institution of Islamic theocracy, at times fining or jailing people who walk dogs in public. Breeding dogs is discouraged by Hadiths 3:439, 3:440, and Hadith 3:482, which agree that Allah s Apostle forbade taking the price of a dog.
Yet pet dogs remain common in Iran. Many Muslims believe Islam forbids keeping dogs indoors, but Mohammed specifically mentioned that dogs may be kept to guard homes, herd livestock, and hunt.
Mohammed forbade gambling and most blood sports, but dogfighting persists in Central Asia through the pretense that it tests the mettle of sheep dogs. Nominally working dogs, not pit bull terriers, the combatants supposedly fight only until one dog yields.
Historically, dogs would drive sheep to market, then fight but professional dogfighters and dogs bred and trained to fight long ago replaced true sheep dogs, just as trucks replaced herding sheep into cities.
The resurgence of dogfighting in Iran follows resurgences in Afghanistan and adjacent parts of the former Soviet Union. The Taliban repressed dogfighting in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2002, to discourage gambling, but it re-emerged after the 2002 U.S. invasion.
A New York Times photo of a Kabul dogfighting arena, published in December, 2007, showed just 367 spectators, 30 dog handlers, and 12 dogs at reputedly one of the largest dogfighting venues in the region.
But fear of the Taliban may remain the major factor keeping dogfighting in check. Kandahar governor Assadullah Khalid attributed to the Taliban a February 2008 bombing that killed at least 80 spectators at a dogfight and wounded 90 more. The Taliban can attack dogfights with reasonable certainty that the participants are not their supporters.