SINGAPORE: In March, 11 puppies were smuggled across the Causeway – starved of food and water in a cramped fuel tank – before they were discovered by Immigration and Checkpoints Authority officers and handed over to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).
The man who tried to bring them in illegally has since been jailed and, under AVA's care, the puppies have recovered from multiple ailments. On Wednesday (Jul 26), they were transferred to a local animal welfare group (which declined to be named) in their first steps towards a forever home.
But this was not before an extensive 100-day quarantine, during which the puppies were fed, vaccinated and put through various health checks at AVA’s Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station.
The facility, which has 82 kennels and 60 catteries, is also where other imported dogs, cats and small mammals are quarantined.
One disease AVA is particularly concerned about is rabies, which it said is mainly carried by dogs. While Singapore has been rabies-free for more than 60 years, the disease is endemic in neighbouring countries and has resulted in human deaths, AVA noted.
The Star reported that a 52-year-old man died on Sunday after being infected by the rabies outbreak in Sarawak. He is the fifth victim of the outbreak, according to the report.
In light of the developments, AVA said it has issued an advisory to veterinarians, pet shops and pet farms to raise awareness on rabies and animal smuggling.
“Smuggled animals are of unknown health status and they may introduce exotic diseases to Singapore,” said Dr Anna Wong, director of AVA’s Quarantine and Inspection Group. “Rabies is a fatal disease and can be transmitted to humans from an infected animal.”
Since 2014, AVA has seized about 110 smuggled dogs. These canines are categorised according to their rabies risk, depending on where they were smuggled from. Malaysia, for example, is among the countries that carry the highest risk, AVA said.
The 11 puppies – comprising Shih Tzus, Malteses and toy poodles – were about six weeks old when they were smuggled in. As they had been brought in from Malaysia, they were quarantined and observed for signs of infectious diseases like rabies, parvovirus and distemper. They were also fed three times a day and had their faeces monitored.
An AVA vet at the facility said one puppy came in so weak but refused to eat, so it had to be fed a mixture of dry and wet food through a syringe for an entire month. “There were doubts as to whether he would survive, but eventually he made it.”
“When the 11 puppies came to us, they were weak and had various health issues such as skin problems, diarrhoea and dehydration,” said Ms Clarissa Frany Francisco, executive manager of AVA’s Quarantine and Inspection Group.
“They have come a long way and are in good shape now. We are working with our animal welfare group rehoming partner to rehome them.
“We hope that there will be no smuggling cases. Not all smuggled animals have happy endings.”