Man admits to smuggling 23 puppies into Singapore aboard vessel, 11 died later

23 puppies were smuggled in six carriers. (Photo: Singapore Food Agency/Facebook)

SINGAPORE — He attempted to smuggle 23 puppies in six cramped carriers on board his pleasure craft but was caught by Police Coast Guard (PCG) officers in Singapore.

After the puppies, which were no more than eight weeks old, were rescued, 11 contracted a virus and died. The puppies consisted of Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Pomeranians, French Bulldogs and Shih Tzus.

Cheow Yon Siong, a 53-year-old Singaporean, owned and operated the Singapore-registered pleasure craft that was used to smuggle the puppies across. He aided Yeun Jian Iun, a 23-year-old Malaysia, in the operation.

On Thursday (25 April), Cheow admitted to one count of abetting the import of the puppies without a license and one count of failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that the puppies were not confined and suffering while being transported.

He also pleaded guilty to consuming and possessing methamphetamine. Seven other drug-related charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

In 2016, Yuen pleaded guilty to his charges and was sentenced to eight months’ jail.

The plan was masterminded by Yeun, who received a call from a man who proposed for him to smuggle puppies into Singapore for a fee. On 23 October 2016, the man told Yeun that he would be paid $1,000 upon successful delivery.

Yeun accepted the offer four days later. On 28 October, Yeun boarded Cheow’s pleasure craft and headed to Sebana Cove at Malaysia in the morning.

Cheow remained in the craft while Yeun collected the 23 puppies in six carriers. The carriers were placed on the vessel and covered with large bath towels before Cheow drove back to Singapore.

When the boat reached Singapore’s coastal waters some 20 minutes later, PCG patrols searched the vessel and heard the sound of barking dogs. Upon a further inspection, the puppies were uncovered.

Cheow claimed that the puppies belonged to them and they had earlier brought to Malaysia for vaccination. However, neither he nor Yeun were able to substantiate their claims.

The craft was escorted to Marina Country Club and the case referred to the then Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore. The authority discovered that there was no food or water in the carriers, which were cramped and barely had any space for the puppies to move around. Up to five puppies were kept in each carrier, with some being pressed to the side of the container.

The puppies were transported to Sembawang Quarantine Station on the same day and examined. Seventeen puppies were estimated to be between four and seven weeks old, with the remaining six estimated at around eight weeks old.

“Their young age suggests that they were only recently weaned from their dam. Based on their young age, the puppies are unlikely to be vaccinated, since puppies are normally vaccinated from only six to eight weeks of age,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Theong Li Han.

Some of the puppies were found to be weak, lethargic and unwilling to eat while others vomited and had diarrhoea. Ten of the puppies eventually died from parvovirus and one was euthanised.

A few months later, Cheow was later arrested for drug offences. Drugs were seized from his home. Cheow’s urine sample tested positive for methamphetamine.

Cheow is expected to be sentenced on 16 May for the importation and drug-related offences. He is currently serving a jail sentence of six years and six months for trafficking methamphetamine.

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