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The Straits Times
April 24, 2023
For RM250 (S$75) per animal, a man agreed to smuggle 26 dogs and a cat in his lorry from Malaysia to Singapore in one trip in October 2022.
But 19 of the animals died, in what the National Parks Board (NParks) considers the most shocking case of live animal smuggling it has seen so far.
Malaysian Gobysuwaran Paraman Sivan, 36, was on Monday sentenced to a year’s jail after he pleaded guilty to 20 charges under the Animals and Birds Act.
Gobysuwaran worked as a lorry driver to transport construction materials from Malaysia to Singapore via Tuas Checkpoint.
In 2021, while eating in Johor Bahru, he was approached by a man known only as “Dido”, who asked if he was interested in smuggling animals to Singapore. But Gobysuwaran would not be paid for any animal that died along the way.
He agreed to the proposal.
The first time he smuggled the animals into Singapore in 2021, Dido paid him RM1,000. Gobysuwaran then regularly smuggled animals, such as dogs, cats and parrots, around two to three times a month.
The animals were put into boxes, containers and laundry bags that were zipped up.
These were then placed in hidden compartments behind the driver’s and passenger’s seats and an overhead compartment.
On Oct 18, 2022, at around 5am, Gobysuwaran collected two blue covered containers, a blue container with the opening secured with cling wrap, and seven nylon bags containing 26 dogs and a cat from Dido’s accomplice at a flyover in Gelang Patah, a town in Johor Bahru.
At around 7.45am, Gobysuwaran reached Tuas Checkpoint, where an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer checked the lorry.
Suddenly, a puppy escaped from one of the containers and was spotted by the officer in the lorry cabin. Gobysuwaran then admitted there were more animals in the lorry.
A total of 25 dogs and a cat were found alive in the vehicle. An adult French bulldog was found dead as it was kept in a nylon bag with insufficient ventilation.
But 18 of the dogs later died from a highly contagious virus transmitted via faecal-oral contact, which can cause gastrointestinal disease.
Only seven dogs and the cat survived.
The prosecution said the containers used to transport the animals were enclosed on all sides, with makeshift openings made on the cover.
These animals were in weak condition and suffered from medical issues such as diarrhoea, parasites and inflammatory skin conditions, added the prosecution.
Defence lawyer Ashvin Hariharan said his client is genuinely remorseful, noting: “He comes from a low-income background and solely provides for the care and medical expenses of his aged mother.
“His mother was previously diagnosed with cancer and, although she is well now, she still requires regular follow-up, which my client pays for.”
District Judge Lorraine Ho said the extent of pain or suffering caused to the animals was significant, given the cramped, poorly ventilated and unsanitary conditions the animals were subjected to during the journey.
She said that according to the prosecution, this has been the most egregious case of live animal smuggling encountered by NParks to date.
She added: “The accused committed the act of confining or conveying the animals in a manner that subjected them to unnecessary suffering for a financial gain.”
In a statement on Monday, NParks said that between October 2022 and March 2023, the board and other agencies, including ICA, detected 19 cases of smuggling of pet animals or wildlife through active surveillance at Singapore’s borders.
In September 2022, NParks carried out an islandwide operation and raided the premises of eight individuals suspected of selling wildlife species online. Over 50 wildlife specimens were seized.
NParks said the well-being of smuggled animals is often compromised by poor holding and transport conditions.
“In some cases, the animals are heavily sedated to minimise noise and movement to avoid detection by the authorities. This could result in poor health conditions, injuries, and even death,” it noted.
The agency added: “When the buying of illegally imported animals stops, the smuggling will cease. NParks strongly encourages prospective pet owners to adopt their pets from animal welfare groups or purchase them from licensed pet shops. Buyers who abet the illicit importation of their pets into Singapore may end up facing prosecution.”
First-time offenders caught importing any animal or bird without a licence may be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to a year, or both.