SINGAPORE - A man and his son, who imported two spotted doves and three sugar gliders from Malaysia without a licence, were handed jail sentences on Wednesday .
Forklift driver Toh Ng Siow, 44, and his 20-year-old son, Han Rong, a rag-and-bone man, admitted to smuggling and transporting the live animals in a cramped manner without giving them enough water, air or food on Aug 25.
The elder Toh began his three-month jail sentence on Wednesday while the son, who was given two months' jail, will surrender on Dec 14.
The court heard that the pair left for Gelang Petah, Malaysia, that evening to attend a Chinese prayer session at the invitation of a friend, known as Ah Chai.
After the prayers, they went to Ah Chai's house. Ah Chai gave them two spotted doves in individual cages, hiding them in a gap between the rear bumper and the exterior of the car boot.
The pair then went to Pekan Nenas in Johor. Han Rong saw some sugar gliders, a kind of squirrel, at an aquarium shop and bought three.
The shopkeeper helped Han Rong to place the sugar gliders, costing a total of RM450 (S$152) , in a pouch. He then and hid them in a smallspace behind the glove compartment as they were not allowed to be brought into Singapore.
The pair then headed for Singapore and were arrested at the Tuas checkpoint.
Investigation showed that the the conditions of travel would have resulted in the birds experiencing significant stress. The sugar gliders would have fared no better as the space to which they were confined was small and covered.
Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority prosecutor Yap Teck Chuan sought stiff sentences for the pair.
He said illegal importation carries the risk of introducing deadly disease such as bird flu or rabies into Singapore.
He said such offences were also hard to detect, and hence, sentences imposed must have a sufficient deterrent effect to educate and discourage like-minded members of the public.
The elder Toh said in mitigation that his wife deserted him for another person early this year and that he had a stroke. He said he was deeply remorseful and pleaded for leniency.
Han Rong, the eldest in the family, said he has to support his two younger siblings, aged 11 and 18, and to look after his father.
They could have been fined up to $10,000 and jailed for up to 12 months per charge.