Man jailed for smuggling 23 puppies via boat into Singapore, 11 later died

23 Puppies were smuggled in six carriers. (Photo: Singapore Food Agency Facebook page)
23 Puppies were smuggled in six carriers. (Photo: Singapore Food Agency Facebook page)

SINGAPORE — A man who smuggled 23 puppies in six cramped carriers via boat was sentenced to one year and eight months’ jail on Wednesday (19 June).

While waiting for immigration officers to clear his entry into Singapore, Cheow Yon Siong, 53, was caught red-handed by police coast guard officers who checked on his pleasure craft and heard dogs barking. There was no food or water in the carriers.

After the puppies, which were between four and eight weeks old, were rescued, 11 contracted a virus and died. The 23 puppies consisted of two Golden Retrievers, three French Bulldogs, four Pomeranians, five Shih Tzus and nine Poodles.

Cheow, a Singaporean, pleaded guilty in April to four charges - two each under the Animals and Birds Act and the Misuse of Drugs Act.

He abetted in importing the puppies without a licence, and failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that they were not confined and suffering while being transported.

He also possessed and used the controlled drug methamphetamine, also known as Ice.

Cheow’s jail term will start after he completes a jail term of six years and six months for drug trafficking, which was meted out in August last year.

Mastermind offered $1,000 to smuggle puppies

On 23 October 2016, Cheow’s accomplice Yeun Jian Iun got a call while he was in Malaysia from an unknown man who suggested that he smuggle puppies into Singapore in return for $1,000.

Yuen, a 23-year-old Malaysian, said he would consider the offer. The man called Yeun again while he was in Singapore four days later. This time, Yeun accepted the offer.

On 28 October, Yeun went to Cheow’s home before they headed to Marina Country Club and boarded his boat with two others. They reached Sebana Cove in Malaysia about an hour later.

When they got there, Yeun told Cheow that he had arranged to smuggle puppies into Singapore. 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 Yeun, Cheow and the two other unknown people headed back to Singapore.

When the boat reached Singapore’s coastal waters some 20 minutes later, Cheow radioed for immigration clearance. While waiting for immigration officers to check their passports, police coast guard officers came by for a spot check on the vessel and found the hidden puppies.

The craft was escorted to Marina Country Club and the case referred to the then Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore. The carriers 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.

Regardless of mode of transport, all animals that are imported into Singapore are required to comply with the International Air Transport Association’s Live Animals Regulations. Under the regulations, each animal kept in a container must have enough space to turn about normally while standing, to stand and sit erect, and to lie in a neutral position.

The puppies were transported to Sembawang Quarantine Station the same day and examined. Seventeen puppies were estimated to be between four and seven weeks old, with the remaining six were estimated to be 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, a contagious animal disease, and one was euthanised on welfare grounds.

A few months later, on 15 February 2017, Cheow was arrested by anti-narcotics officers acting on a tip-off. Drugs were seized from his home and his urine sample tested positive for methamphetamine.

Yeun was separately sentenced to eight months’ jail in December 2016 for his role in the smuggling.

For importing the puppies without a licence, Cheow could have been fined up to $10,000 and jailed for up to a year. For failing in his duty of care to the puppies, the maximum punishment he faced is the same.

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