TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Quarantine officers in southern Taiwan have provoked criticism from animal rights groups after putting down 154 pet cats on Saturday (Aug. 21) that had been smuggled into the country on a fishing boat two days earlier.
Coast Guard personnel handed the felines over to the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection (BAPHIQ) on Friday after intercepting the vessel off the coast of Tainan on Thursday and escorting it to Kaohsiung port, according to a CNA report.
When the Coast Guard officers searched the fishing boat, they found 154 pet cats in 62 cages onboard, including breeds such as Russian Blue, Ragdoll, Persian American Shorthair, and British Shorthair, said Fu Hsueh-li (傅學理), the head of the Kaohsiung branch of the BAPHIQ. Since the origin of the cats was unknown, they were euthanized to guard against the import of infectious diseases that may harm other animals and humans in Taiwan, he said.
Permits are required to import animals to Taiwan and they must be inspected and quarantined at the port of entry, Fu said, citing the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal Diseases. If those requirements are not met, the animals would be either put down or refused entry, in accordance with the law, he added.
Animal rights groups, however, condemned the decision, and urged prosecutors to investigate the case and bring the smugglers to justice. "It is such an irony that government authorities put down the cats today, on International Homeless Animals' Day," five environmental groups said in a joint statement.
Established in 1992, International Homeless Animals' Day is observed on the third Saturday of August every year.
Anthony Ni (倪京台), spokesperson for the Animal Rescue Team Taiwan, said though it is important to protect the country's ecosystem, Taiwan authorities should remember that smuggled animals are innocent of any crime. Ni said he and his group had tried in the past to prevent Taiwan authorities from killing smuggled turtles and other animals but had failed because the law does not allow any flexibility.
He called for amendments to the relevant law that would ensure the humane treatment of smuggled animals. One of his group’s recommendations is to allow the animals to be adopted after they have been inspected and quarantined.