Man jailed for trying to smuggle 23 puppies into Singapore on his yacht from Malaysia

Some of the puppies that were kept on the yacht. — TODAY pic
Some of the puppies that were kept on the yacht. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, June 20 — Along with three other men, Cheow Yon Siong hid 23 puppies in cages on his yacht and tried to smuggle them into Singapore from Malaysia in 2016.

Their attempts were ultimately foiled by Police Coast Guard officers, who heard the dogs barking during a check. They had been crammed into rigid pet carriers that were far too small for them, with no food or water.

About half of the puppies died within a month from parvovirus, a highly contagious viral illness that mainly affects dogs.

Yesterday, Cheow, 53, a Singaporean, was sentenced to one year and eight months behind bars after admitting to helping his accomplice, 23-year-old Malaysian Yeun Jian Iun, in the smuggling bid.

This is on top of the six-and-a-half years’ jail term he is already serving for drug trafficking offences. Cheow pleaded guilty in April to two more charges under the Animals and Birds Act, and two charges each of drug consumption and possession.

Yuen was sentenced to eight months’ jail in 2016 for his role in the offence.

Prosecuting Officer Yap Teck Chuan from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) told the court that one of the important purposes of the Animals and Birds Act is to “prevent the spread of diseases, especially rabies, into Singapore”.

The puppies came from Malaysia, which suffered a rabies outbreak in September 2015 and has not been declared rabies-free yet, he added.

The puppies in question were unlikely vaccinated, he said.

Covered cages with towels

The court previously heard that the puppies comprised nine poodles, five shih tzus, four Pomeranians, three French bulldogs, and two golden retrievers.

On October 23, 2016, someone called Yuen with a proposal to smuggle puppies into Singapore for a fee, promising S$1,000 (RM3,000) if the delivery was successful. Yuen accepted the offer a few days later.

Cheow and Yuen went to Marina Country Club with two other unidentified men on October 28, 2016 and took Cheow’s yacht to Sebana Cove in Johor.

When they arrived, Yuen told Cheow about the plans he had made to smuggle the puppies. Yuen left Cheow in the yacht and went to a car park nearby, where he met someone who handed him six cages containing the animals.

Yuen took the puppies back to the yacht and covered them with some large bath towels. The four men then returned to Singapore.

At about 4pm, some Police Coast Guard officers conducted a check on the craft in the waters off Changi General Purpose Anchorage. One of the officers heard dogs barking and found the cages.

Yuen said that the puppies belonged to them, and that they had earlier taken them to Malaysia for vaccination.

However, neither Cheow nor Yuen could substantiate their claim or show any import licences. The case was then referred to the AVA.

An AVA officer who examined the puppies noted that they were “very young” — between four and eight weeks old. Some of them were weak, lethargic and unwilling to eat, while some developed signs of vomiting and diarrhoea and were unable to eat on their own.

Despite veterinary treatment, 10 of the youngest dogs died from parvovirus, while one was euthanised on the grounds of welfare.

About four months later, Cheow ran afoul of the law again.

On February 15, 2017, narcotics officers raided his Hougang flat and found him to have taken methamphetamine. He had 0.27g of the drug on him as well. — TODAY

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