Buying and selling dogs is illegal in Iran ... Dogs are considered "haram," or unclean, in Islam. Until recently, keeping dogs as pets was limited to a small circle of Westernized Iranians.
But access to satellite television—and American programs depicting families playing with pups—has turned dog ownership into a sign of social status in Iran. ...
Vendors charge the equivalent of up to $10,000 for top dogs and operate so covertly that some blindfold potential buyers en route to the kennel.
"It was crazy," says Ali Shekouri, a 32-year-old businessman who pursued three dicey strategies before obtaining a local beagle. "After a while I didn't know if I was buying a dog or dealing in an international drug trade."