13 smuggled puppies doing well in quarantine

A Singaporean woman was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint last month for trying to smuggle 13 puppies into the country. They were hidden in three black bags in a Singapore-registered car. -- PHOTO: IMMIGRATION AND CHECKPOINTS AUTHORITY
A Singaporean woman was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint last month for trying to smuggle 13 puppies into the country. They were hidden in three black bags in a Singapore-registered car. -- PHOTO: IMMIGRATION AND CHECKPOINTS AUTHORITY

Thirteen puppies that a woman tried to smuggle into Singapore from Malaysia last month are healthy and doing well.

They are in quarantine and being monitored by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) for clinical signs of infectious or contagious disease, especially rabies, at the Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station.

"The puppies are not available for adoption for now as we are working with our Malaysian counterparts to return them," said an AVA spokesman, in response to queries from The Straits Times.

A 33-year-old Singaporean woman was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint last month for attempting to smuggle the puppies in without a proper permit.

The animals were discovered hidden in three black bags under the driver's seat of a Singapore- registered car, the front passenger's seat and the glove compartment during a routine check.

It is believed that the puppies, which appear to be of popular breeds such as poodle and Japanese spitz, were being smuggled in for sale in Singapore.

Such animals can be bought legally here, but some smugglers bring them in to sell at a lower price online, for example, on websites such as Locanto or Adpost.

A Japanese spitz puppy, for instance, costs about $1,500 online but the price could go up to $3,800 at pet shops.

Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of animal welfare group Save Our Street Dogs, said puppies brought in illegally could be sold at a lower price as smugglers do not pay for the proper import procedures.

"To legally import a puppy from Malaysia, it could cost up to $3,000 in quarantine fees and import papers," said Dr Siew. "Many pet shops will choose to bring dogs in from Australia instead, as there is no quarantine period. But imports from a proper breeder are also more expensive."

Last month's case was the second thwarted puppy smuggling attempt this year.

In March, Malaysian lorry driver Abdul Aziz Kassen had tried to smuggle in 43 puppies in two sealed carton boxes. The dogs were hungry and thirsty when found. One of them, a pomeranian, later died. The 45-year-old driver was later jailed for six months.

Ms Corinne Fong, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said young animals should not be crammed into tight spaces, as this could worsen their physical and mental suffering. She urged potential pet owners to consider adopting instead.

"The layman can curb this smuggling trade by cultivating the right mindset, that all puppies are special and valuable... regardless of their breed," said Ms Fong.

Animal lover Looi Siew Yuen, 24, changed her mind about buying a husky and adopted a mongrel instead.

Ms Looi, a research consultant, said: "I figured that if I didn't get a husky, someone else would still have given it a home.

"It's much harder for strays to find a home and since I love all dogs equally, regardless of their breed, I might as well adopt."

audreyt@sph.com.sg