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Man jailed for trying to smuggle 6 puppies and a bird under car seat, causing them ‘unnecessary suffering’

Man jailed for trying to smuggle 6 puppies and a bird under car seat, causing them ‘unnecessary suffering’

The compartment under the third-row passenger seat where six puppies and a bird were found. (Photo: NParks)

SINGAPORE: A man was sentenced to six months’ jail on Wednesday (Jun 23) for trying to smuggle six puppies and a songbird into Singapore under the seat of a car. Five of the animals later died.

Singaporean Somasundram Pathumalai, 36, was driving the car containing the animals when he was stopped at Woodlands Checkpoint at about 3am on Mar 14 last year.

When officers from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) checked the car, they found six sedated puppies and a white-rumped shama bird, which was trapped in a tube closed off with cable ties and a stick.

The animals were hidden in the compartment under the third-row passenger seat, in a space that measured 77cm in length, 31cm in width and 12cm in height.

The cramped space and lack of ventilation had put the animals' lives at risk, court documents stated.

“Overall, the condition of transport of the puppies and bird was assessed to be unsuitable and which would have caused unnecessary suffering to the animals,” said the prosecution.

According to the National Parks Board (NParks), the trade of the white-rumped shama, a popular songbird, is regulated. 

The bird died more than a month after it was seized by the authorities and quarantined for observation. 

The third-row passenger seat where six puppies and a bird were hidden. (Photo: NParks)

Four of the puppies - a mix of Great Danes and German Shepherds - died between 11 and 16 days after the smuggling attempt.

“The puppies dying soon after being smuggled indicates that they could not tolerate the conditions of transportation,” court documents stated.


Investigations showed that Somasundram was offered S$500 to smuggle the animals by another Singaporean man.

The man's brother-in-law is accused of being involved as well, allegedly instructing Somasundram to drive to Malaysia to pick up the animals. 

When stopped by ICA officers at Woodlands Checkpoint, Somasundram admitted that the animals belonged to him. Checks revealed that he did not have a valid licence to import them from Malaysia.

The animals were seized and the case was referred to NParks for investigations.

The cases involving the two co-accused are pending.

A white-rumped shama seen in Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam, India. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In a media statement, NParks reminded all travellers that the import of all animals into Singapore requires approval from the agency.

Smuggled animals are from unknown sources, have unknown health status and may introduce exotic diseases into the country. Their well-being will also be affected by poor conditions during the smuggling process, said NParks.

Illegal wildlife trade also impacts the biodiversity and ecosystems of source and destination countries, it added.

READ: Ivory worth S$18 million to be crushed; new centre to bolster Singapore’s fight against illegal wildlife trade

“For example, the trade of the popular songbird white-rumped shama is regulated. With proper records of legal source, and other import and sale information, its wild population is not impacted," said NParks.

“However, when the white-rumped shama is poached in the wild for illegal trade, its wild population will be increasingly threatened throughout the region.”

First-time offenders caught importing any animal or bird without a licence could be fined up to S$10,000, jailed up to 12 months, or both. The penalty is the same for those convicted of importing any living wildlife without approval under the Wildlife Act.

Source: CNA/dv(gs)


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