Man pleads guilty to trying to smuggle 23 puppies into S'pore

A Singaporean who was involved in an attempt to smuggle 23 puppies from Malaysia into Singapore in 2016 pleaded guilty to two charges under the Animals and Birds Act yesterday.

Cheow Yon Siong, 53, had been charged with the illegal import of 23 puppies into Singapore from Malaysia and failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the puppies were not kept in confinement and subjected to unreasonable or unnecessary pain or suffering.

He also pleaded guilty to consuming and possessing methamphetamine.

On Oct 28, 2016, during a routine inspection by the Police Coast Guard, Cheow and another man, Malaysian Yeun Jian Iun, were found trying to smuggle the puppies in cages under large pieces of cloth on Cheow's vessel.

There were nine poodles, five shih tzus, four pomeranians, three French bulldogs and two golden retrievers. Ten of the youngest dogs later died after being infected with parvovirus and another had to be euthanised.

In his sentencing submissions, prosecuting officer Yap Teck Chuan said the accused had agreed to smuggle the puppies for $1,000 from a person he hardly knew.

He added that the way in which the recently weaned puppies were transported would have caused significant stress to the animals, predisposing them to more severe clinical diseases.

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    Number of puppies - the youngest of the 23 smuggled - that later died after being infected with parvovirus. Another had to be euthanised.

He said the puppies which had been infected with parvovirus likely became infected in Malaysia and brought the disease into Singapore, and could have spread the disease to the other smuggled puppies in the same crowded crate.

Parvovirus usually affects puppies that are partially or completely unvaccinated and are hence at the highest risk of contracting the disease, especially if they are stressed due to weaning, overcrowding or malnutrition, said Mr Yap.

He said that one of the important purposes of the Animals and Birds Act is to prevent the spread of diseases, especially rabies, into Singapore.

Rabies is a fatal viral disease transmitted through the bite of an infected animal.

Although Singapore has been free from rabies since 1953, the consequences of a rabies outbreak would be dire, he added.

The puppies in this case were from Malaysia, which had an outbreak of rabies in 2015, and has not been declared free from the disease since then.

The World Health Organisation estimated the number of human deaths caused by rabies each year to be 60,000.

Cheow will return to court for sentencing next month.

He could be fined up to $10,000 or jailed for up to a year, or both.

In December 2016, Yeun was sentenced to eight months' jail for illegally importing the puppies, and he also received a concurrent sentence of four months' jail for animal cruelty.

Goh Yan Han

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2019, with the headline 'Man pleads guilty to trying to smuggle 23 puppies into S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe