Tsai mulling law revision after Taiwan euthanizes 154 smuggled pet cats

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Taipei, Aug. 22 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said late Saturday that she was saddened by the government’s decision to cease 154 domestic cats that had been smuggled into the country the previous day, and said a change of the relevant law, so that smuggled animals can be treated more humanely.

Tsai, who is known as a cat lover, said in a Facebook post that all of those lives were lost due to the smugglers’ selfishness earlier in the day when Kaohsiung quarantine officers euthanized the 154 cats.

In her late-night post, Tsai condemned the actions of the five-man crew on a fishing boat that carried 62 cages of smuggled cats, including breeds such as Russian Blue, Ragdoll, Persian-American Shorthair and British Shorthair.

The cats were handed over to the Kaohsiung branch of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection (BAPHIQ) on Friday by Coast Guard officials who intercepted the fishing vessel nine nautical miles off the coast of Tainan on Thursday. and, according to the BAPHIQ branch, had escorted it to the port of Kaohsiung.

After receiving a search warrant and testing the boat crew for COVID-19, Coast Guard officials boarded the ship and found the 154 cats in cages. The captain admitted the boat carrying the smuggled cats was en route to Taiwan before being intercepted, the coast guard said.

Since the cats’ origins were unknown, they were euthanized on Saturday to prevent the importation of infectious diseases that could threaten the health of other animals and people in the nation, the BAPHIQ said.

Commenting on the matter by President Tsai, she said she was saddened by the incident but asked the public for understanding that the BAPHIQ must euthanize cats in accordance with the country’s laws to prevent infectious diseases from being imported.

However, consideration should be given to changing the law to allow a more humane approach in such cases, she added.

When asked to comment on the issue, Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) expressed similar views, saying on Sunday that it was sad but necessary to euthanize the cats to prevent infectious diseases from entering Taiwan the government has no choice.

The government will rethink policies and see if smuggled animals could be treated more humanely, he said, adding that disease prevention rules also need to be maintained.

Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲), head of the cabinet-level Agriculture Council under which BAPHIQ reports, said Saturday that the cats were euthanized in accordance with the law to protect the health of other pets and humans, and to protect the environment.

It is absolutely necessary to euthanize the cats, Chen said, adding that he took full responsibility for the decision.

He proposed changing the Smuggling Penalty Act to impose harsher penalties for smuggling animals and plants.

The deputy director general of BAPHIQ, Hsu Jung-pin (徐榮彬), also commented on the subject in a statement on Saturday that the office must tighten its animal quarantine regulations to prevent the entry of infectious diseases that can affect both humans and animals.

As an example, he cited mad cow disease, which infects cows and can be transmitted to humans.

When people develop mad cow disease, doctors call it Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a deadly and rapidly progressing degenerative brain disease that leads to dementia and other neurological symptoms. CJD has a 100 percent death rate and no known cure.

(by Wen Kui-hsiang, Wu Hsin-yun and Evelyn Kao)

End article / pc