IRAN

Videos show popular Iranian dog trainer abusing animals

Activists rescued this dog at the kennel in Tehran.
Activists rescued this dog at the kennel in Tehran.

Advertising

An Iranian woman had built up a strong social media presence to promote her successful dog training business and her popular private kennel. But when videos were leaked of her abusing her charges, animal-loving Iranians were outraged enough to both send death threats and break into her home in a bid to free the animals.

In the videos, the woman— named as Mercedeh Malekshahi— pours hot water on a dog, puts her foot on the neck of another and beats a puppy.

This comes in sharp contrast to the public image that Malekshahi had, especially amongst Tehran’s pet owners. Malekshahi had several different popular social media accounts advertising her private kennel and her work as a dog trainer.

 

The animal torture videos were leaked by a friend who was disgusted by the cruelty.

Angry animal lovers were quick to take to Twitter, Facebook and Telegram to express their disgust. They hurled online insults at Malekshahi, who claimed that she received death threats. Her Instagram account was hacked and her professional pages on Facebook and Telegram were suspended.

Activists gathered outside Malekshahi's apartment. 

But it didn't stop there. Other angry activists, unsatisfied with virtual threats, tracked down Malekshahi’s home address and gathered in front of her apartment. Some people actually broke into her residence, supposedly to save the dogs that were being kenneled there.

Malekshahi told Radio Free Europe that she is “a fugitive” and that she has gone into hiding. Some activists have also begun legal action against her.

Many people took to social media to criticize Malekshahi. This user commented that social media can sometimes expose people's "barbaric violence" alongside the hashtag (in Persian): #mercedehmalekshahi

Ali Suny is the co-director of “Vafa Shelter”, one of Iran’s most well-known dog shelters.

These animal rights activists need to steer away from emotional reactions and focus on an actual change in policy. What we need is a licensing system for kennels, which could provide some oversight and take on the responsibility of inspecting the sites.

Activists gathered outside of Malekshahi's apartment.

Because the system is totally unregulated, most people find kennels online. Malekshahi, for example, got a lot of customers through her social media presence. She worked as a trainer and charged between 15-20 € per night to board an animal in her apartment, which she had transformed into a kennel.

I would advise people to ask their veterinarian or a local animal shelter to recommend a kennel.

This video shows activists trying to get inside Malekshahi's apartment to "save" the dogs she was boarding.

This video shows one of the dogs "liberated" by the activists

Even though more and more Iranians are adopting pets, Iran’s hardliners frown on this practice. Because dogs are considered impure by some Muslims, many hardliners see pet ownership as a worrying adoption of Western lifestyles. Iran’s Islamic legal system still includes strict rules about dog ownership, especially in the cities.

Police have the power to confiscate dogs in public spaces, even if the owner is present. Police can also take animals from cars. Another law stipulates that if neighbours complain about a dog, the owner has 10 days to “manage the situation”.

This social media user said that Malekshahi's neighbours found out what was going on when they heard dogs crying. She asked "How can you make money on crying dogs?"

 

This user said that he should feed Malekshahi to his dog.