A 42-year-old Malaysian man crammed six puppies - two shih tzus and four poodles - into a secret compartment in a car and then spent an hour driving through heavy traffic across the Causeway to Singapore last month, a court heard.
But immigration officers at Woodlands Checkpoint searched the vehicle and found the compartment hidden beneath the rear passenger seat and referred the case to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).
Yesterday, Muhammad Adam Yap Abdullah was jailed for six months after he pleaded guilty to two charges: one count of importing live animals without a licence and another of causing unnecessary suffering to animals.
The court heard that Adam got a call from an acquaintance, known to him only as Ah Meng, on May 6 asking him to smuggle animals into Singapore. In return, he would be paid RM500 (S$167) for every animal delivered successfully.
He agreed to the deal and gave Ah Meng his bank details.
Later the same day, Adam picked up an empty Malaysia-registered car from Jalan Ah Fook in Johor and did a trial run, as instructed. He entered Singapore via Woodlands Checkpoint and drove back to Johor that afternoon.
At about 4pm that day, Ah Meng told Adam to do another trial run at night, which he did. On both occasions, immigration officers did not detect the compartment.
On May 19, Ah Meng asked Adam to smuggle the puppies, each about 2½ months old, into Singapore.
The puppies were crammed into the compartment - 42cm long, 25cm wide and 20cm high - with no food or water. They were put on a towel, with plastic bottles filled with ice underneath to keep them cool. There were also two hoses for air circulation.
Adam arrived at Woodlands Checkpoint at about 11pm. But this time, immigration officers found the compartment.
AVA prosecuting officer Yap Teck Chuan called for a stiff sentence, saying such offences are hard to detect given the large volume of traffic into the country.
He also noted that the illegal importation of live animals carries the risk of bringing in deadly diseases, such as rabies.
"Although Singapore has been free from rabies since 1953... the authorities are careful not to be lulled into a false sense of security, especially since Singapore is surrounded by rabies-infected countries... The consequences of an outbreak of rabies would be dire."
The puppies are being quarantined and may be found homes.