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

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

Somasundram Pathumalai, 36, was driving the car with the animals when he was stopped at Woodlands Checkpoint at around 3 a.m. on March 14 last year.

When officials from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) checked the car, they found six sedated pups and a white shame bird trapped in a pipe sealed with zip ties and a stick.

The animals were hidden in the compartment under the passenger seat in the third row in a room 77 cm long, 31 cm wide and 12 cm high.

The cramped space and the lack of ventilation put the lives of the animals at risk, according to court files.

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

According to the National Parks Board (NParks), the trade in the white rumen shama, a popular songbird, is regulated.

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

Smuggled Pups Birds Somasundram Pathumalai (2)

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

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

“The puppies who die shortly after the smuggling indicate that they cannot tolerate the transport conditions,” said the court files.

Paid S $ 500 to smuggle animals

Investigations showed that another man from Singapore offered Somasundram S $ 500 to smuggle the animals.

The man’s brother-in-law is also accused of being involved, who allegedly instructed Somasundram to go to Malaysia to pick up the animals.

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

The animals were confiscated and the case was referred to NParks for investigation.

The proceedings against the two co-defendants are pending.

File image of white-rumped Shama Bird

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

In a press release, NParks reminded all travelers that all animals in Singapore must be approved by the agency.

Smuggled animals come from unknown sources, have an unknown state of health, and can bring exotic diseases into the country. Their well-being is also affected by poor conditions during smuggling, NParks said.

The illegal wildlife trade also affects biodiversity and ecosystems in countries of origin and destination, she added.

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“For example, the trade in the popular songbird Shama with a white rump is regulated. With proper records of the legal source and other import and sales information, the wild population will not be affected, “said NParks.

“However, if the white-rump shama is poached for illegal trade in the wild, its wild population will be increasingly threatened across the region.”

First-time offenders caught importing animals or birds without a license can be fined up to S $ 10,000, imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both. The penalty is the same for those convicted of importing live wildlife without a permit under the Wildlife Act.

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