Taipei, Aug. 22 (CNA) Taiwan’s Agriculture Council (COA) said Sunday that the 154 domestic cats found on a fishing boat a few days ago had to be euthanized because they had been smuggled out of China, where rabies is endemic, and it posed a danger to Taiwan.
The cats were found Friday in 62 cages on a fishing vessel that had been intercepted by Taiwan’s Coast Guard the previous day and escorted to Kaohsiung port on the basis of a lead.
On Saturday, the 154 cats, including breeds such as Russian Blue, Ragdoll, Persian-American Shorthair and British Shorthair, were euthanized by veterinarians from the COA’s Bureau of Animal and Phytosanitary Inspection (BAPHIQ).
While BAPHIQ said the decision was in line with the Infectious Animal Disease Prevention and Control Act, it was criticized by animal rights lawyers in Taiwan, who argued that the action was inhumane and that the government should be more flexible in handling such cases.
At a press conference on Sunday, however, BAPHIQ General Director Tu Wen-jane (杜文珍) said that the cats had been smuggled out of China, an endemic area of rabies.
The cats may have brought the virus to Taiwan, which is not currently a high-risk area for the disease, Tu said, adding that the death rate from rabies is practically 100 percent once clinical symptoms appear.
The case will be referred to prosecutors for investigation and if the cat buyers are found they should be held accountable, she said.
Meanwhile, COA Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said at the press conference that he would hold talks with the Justice Department about public calls for tougher sentences against animal and plant smugglers.
He said that although some people have suggested the government could have checked the health of cats and saved their lives, they should be aware that such inspections almost always leave loopholes affecting the health of dogs, cats and people in Taiwan.
(by Chen Chia-lun and Emerson Lim)
End article / pc