60 cases of smuggled animals in past 5 years

Some of those confiscated by AVA are quarantined, tested for diseases before being put up for adoption
Goh Shi Ting Straits Times 30 Nov 12;

PUPPIES and songbirds count among the 60 cases of smuggled animals that the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has handled in the past five years.

Typically, animals that are confiscated are placed under quarantine and tested for diseases before they are put up for adoption. Exotic animals or birds are re-homed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Smuggled animals that are unhealthy or at risk of having an infectious disease are humanely euthanised, said the AVA in response to queries from The Straits Times.

Last Tuesday, a 27-year-old driver allegedly tried to smuggle 21 puppies in his car boot across the Woodlands Checkpoint, and was stopped by Immigration and Checkpoints Authority inspectors. The case is currently under investigation.

Besides puppies, the oriental white-eye songbirds, or mata puteh in Malay, are commonly smuggled into Singapore due to their popularity among bird-keepers.

In March, a Malaysian man was jailed for two weeks and fined $4,000 for illegally bringing in 24 oriental white-eye hatchlings from Batam, Indonesia. Seven of the 24 hatchlings, kept in small boxes inside a pouch concealed in his trousers, were found dead. The remaining birds were sent to Jurong Bird Park after being tested negative for avian influenza.

The small green birds usually fetch about $150 each, while the better singing birds can cost up to a thousand dollars.

Bird-watcher Alfred Chia, 52, said that while these songbirds are not indigenous to Singapore, they are commonly found in neighbouring countries like Thailand and Malaysia.

The AVA currently does not allow the import of birds from avian influenza-affected countries, such as Indonesia.

In the case of dogs and cats, the main concern is the risk of rabies, which is a fatal viral disease that can be transmitted to man by the bite of an animal carrying the virus. "Singapore enjoys a rabies-free status but we cannot be complacent as the disease is endemic in the region," said the AVA.

AVA said that the 21 puppies found last week - 14 pomeranians and seven pugs - are now under observation at the Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station. They will be vaccinated and quarantined for up to 180 days. Those interested in adopting the animals are required to pay $750 for the full vaccination, and an internal and external parasite treatment. The dogs will also be sterilised, microchipped and licensed.

The AVA will invite people interested in adopting to visit the quarantine station for an interview when the puppies are ready for adoption.

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