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Iran pet lovers slam ban on dogs in public

TEHRAN, May 2 (Reuters) - An Iranian animal rights group has protested at an order by the country's chief justice barring dogs from public places as ``un-Islamic,'' arguing that the ban is illegal, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

``Condemning animals to house arrest and taking away their God-given freedom without a trial is not in the power of any authority,'' said the Association of the Friends of Animals, a previously unknown group, in a letter to conservative judiciary chief Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi.

The letter, quoted by the daily Jomhuri-ye Eslami, said the order was unconstitutional and an interference in parliament's authority.

Yazdi ordered police last month to clamp down on dog walkers, saying the practice insulted Islamic sentiment. ``This is an Islamic country. This is an Islamic city. It is okay for people to keep animals at their home, but bringing them into streets and alleys is a public insult,'' he said.

``The police can take action in this regard.'' Despite Islamic beliefs, many affluent city dwellers own dogs and take them out for walks.

A number of rights groups have emerged in Iran in the past years, notably under moderate President Mohammad Khatami, who is pushing for greater freedom and the rule of law.

Jomhuri-ye Eslami, a hardline daily, criticised the trend. ``These days, there is so much abuse of the word 'freedom' that it is even used to defend dog lovers,'' it said.


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