Man jailed for smuggling bird and puppies under car seat; most died during quarantine

A close up view of third row passenger seat where the six puppies and bird were found. (PHOTO: NParks))
A close up view of third row passenger seat where the six puppies and bird were found. (PHOTO: NParks)

SINGAPORE — A man had agreed to smuggle six puppies and a bird through Woodlands Checkpoint under the third-row passenger seat of his rental car.

Somasundram Pathumalai, 36, was caught by checkpoints officers. However, upon rescuing the animals, four of the puppies and the bird - which was bound in a plastic tube - had died during quarantine. Each animal was found to be dehydrated, and the puppies had roundworms as well as a muscle-waste disorder.

Somasundram, a Singaporean, was jailed for six months on Wednesday (23 June), after he pleaded guilty to two charges each of importing dogs without license and of causing them unnecessary suffering, with a remaining 10 charges of a similar nature taken into consideration for sentencing.

He had agreed to a plan by an individual called Subramaniam Ellan to smuggle animals into Singapore from Malaysia for a fee of $500. Subramaniam has not been dealt with by the court.

Puppies injected with sedative before smuggling attempt

Sometime between 13 and 14 March last year, Subramaniam arranged for Somasundram to pick up a rental car for the task, and to go to Woodlands to wait to be contacted by his brother-in-law Jeevan Arjoon. Jeevan has also not been dealt with by the court.

After Jeevan arrived, he instructed Somasundram to meet him at a petrol station in Malaysia after immigration clearance. When both reached Johor Bahru, Jeevan drove the rental car to pick up the puppies - two German Shepherds and four Great Danes - and a White-Rumped Shama bird from different locations.

The two men then drove to a pet shop in Johor Bahru, where the puppies were injected with a sedative - which would be effective for an hour - and placed under the third-row seats. The bird was put in a tube and placed with the puppies.

Jeevan told Somasundram that he would return to Singapore first to check which lane was safest to take. However, Somasundram did not wait for instructions and proceeded to Woodlands Checkpoint. He also did not pick up the Jeevan’s call when he was at Woodlands Checkpoint.

He was stopped by ICA officers at about 3.05am on 14 March last year. They found the hidden sedated puppies and referred the case to the National Parks Board (NParks) for investigations. Somasundram admitted the animals belonged to him.

Car space too small to hold bird, puppies comfortably

The compartment the animals were hidden measured 77cm in length, by 31cm in width, by 12cm in height, with a support structure which reduced the space available. The six puppies each measured between 28cm to 36cm in length, and between 19cm to 24cm in height and about 10cm in width.

The bird was placed in a hollow plastic pipe of 4cm diameter, with its tail feathers exposed at one end. Cable ties and a stick was used to block the ends of the pipe to trap the bird.

Upon review, NParks found that the space was too small to hold the bird and puppies comfortably, as the compartment was enclosed and did not have proper ventilation.

“This meant that body heat generated by them could not dissipate effectively, and they were subjected to poor ventilation and temperature control which would have caused them to suffer,” an NParks prosecutor said.

The sedation of the puppies also meant that they could have choked on their saliva.

Between 25 and 30 March last year, three Great Dane puppies and one German Shepherd puppy died during quarantine. On 23 April last year, the bird died while in quarantine.

The puppies' deaths indicated that they could not tolerate the conditions of transportation, according to NParks.

Under the Animals and Birds Act, first-time offenders caught importing any animal or bird without a licence could be jailed up to 12 months and/or fined up to $10,000. For failing to convey them in a manner which does not cause the animals suffering, Somasundram could have been jailed up to a year and/or fined up to $10,000 on a first offence.

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