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Founder of Facebook cat group fined for using home to sell pet kittens, failing to take cat to vet

Founder of Facebook cat group fined for using home to sell pet kittens, failing to take cat to vet

File photo of kittens. (Photo: Unsplash/The Lucky Neko)

SINGAPORE: The founder of a Facebook group for cat enthusiasts used his flat as a pet shop to sell two kittens, and failed to take a kitten to the vet even though it had ringworm, cat flu and mite infestations.

Derek Chew Keng Khoon, 45, was fined S$11,000 for his offences under the Animals and Birds Act and Animals and Birds (Pet Shop and Exhibition) Rules on Wednesday (Dec 22).

He pleaded guilty to a charge of using his home as a pet shop to sell kittens without a licence and another of permitting unnecessary suffering to a kitten by not taking it to a vet. A third charge involving another sick kitten was taken into consideration.

The court heard that Chew set up a Facebook group called Maine Coon Singapore in 2018. He got to know an unidentified man who was selling Maine Coon cats via Gumtree.

He had an arrangement with this man to post kittens for sale in his Facebook group to attract potential buyers if the man had any available. Chew would get a commission from the sale if he managed to secure a buyer.

He sold kittens this way on three to four occasions between 2018 and July 2020, said the National Parks Board (NParks) prosecutor.

On Dec 21, 2019, Chew posted a photo of kittens in the Facebook group. A member of the group sent Chew a message asking if the kittens were available, and Chew replied that they were, for S$600 to S$800 per kitten.

Chew told his contact that he had an interested buyer, and the man handed over a mother cat with her seven kittens to Chew. Chew became the main caregiver for the kittens, keeping them in his flat.

On Jan 5, 2020, the buyer went to Chew's flat to view the kittens. He reserved a grey kitten and paid Chew a total of S$600 for it.

However, when he went to visit the kitten again on Jan 19, 2020, he noticed a bald patch above the kitten's eye. He asked Chew about it, and Chew said the kitten had sustained a scratch in a fight.

However, Chew later admitted to the buyer that the kitten had a ringworm infection.

On Feb 29, 2020, the buyer went to Chew's flat to collect the kitten and saw that it was in a far worse condition. It had bald patches all over its body and its ears were red and inflamed.

The buyer collected the kitten and took it to a vet, who diagnosed it as having: A fur mite infestation, a ear mite infestation, ringworm and mild cat flu.

In September 2020, an investigation officer of the Animal and Veterinary Service under NParks began looking into Chew's case for possible offences.

Investigations revealed that Chew was aware of the medical issues the kitten had, but did not take it to the vet for treatment. He also admitted selling two kittens for a total of S$900 from the buyer, although he knew it was illegal to sell them.

On Wednesday, Chew told the court that he was unable to pay the fine and would serve the jail term of 19 days in default. However, he was eventually given time to pay a fine and did not serve jail time.

He said he had submitted documents to show that he was "unfit to be in jail" due to his medical conditions. He contested the statement of facts at first, saying he had not created the Facebook group with the intention to sell cats.

On the condition of the kitten, he said he might have overlooked the ear mites at first, but said it did not tally that the buyer bought the kitten anyway despite pointing out the bald patches.

He also said he did not take the kitten to the vet as he was previously told by a vet to use off-the-shelf ringworm medication. 

"The cat was reacting well to it and there wasn't much of an issue," he said.

He also claimed he was "cyberbullied", with his name published in the media.

The prosecutor asked for a fine of S$14,500, saying Chew was the main caregiver of the kittens, which suffered for over a month under his care. 

She also asked for and was granted a six-month disqualification order from carrying on animal-related businesses.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the duration and scope of the disqualification order related to Derek Chew Keng Khoon.
 
Source: CNA/ll(zl)

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