A 30-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of smuggling 136 cats and dogs into Hong Kong by sea.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, the Hong Kong Police Force and the Custom and Excise Department said that the man was arrested late at night on Wednesday after officers spotted a suspicious speedboat entering the city from Sha Chau – an island in the northwest waters of Hong Kong.
The speedboat tried to escape by heading toward mainland China waters.
After a chase, the speedboat was stopped near Black Point in northwestern New Territories.
Officers arrested the 30-year-old man for importing unmanifested cargo, cruelty to animals, refusing to stop for inspection and endangering others’ safety at seas.
They also seized 136 cats and dogs, and the speedboat, which were estimated to be worth around HK$1.4 million (US$ 179,000) all together.
The 101 cats and 35 dogs were found in 17 cages. One cage was even packed with 16 cats.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was called to take care of the animals, which are now in safe conditions. They are currently being cared for and undergoing checks by the SPCA and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
Customs noted that the cats and dogs are young and pedigree. If smuggled into Hong Kong, they could have been sold for an estimated HK$10,000 (US$1,270) to HK$15,000 (US$1,910) each.
They said it was also possible that the animals were orders made via online shopping.
Police and customs urged people to get pets from reputable and licensed pet shops, or consider adoption.
They added that authorities will decide how to handle the seized cats and dogs after they finish assessing their health.
The SPCA said that it received 12 dogs and 35 cats on Thursday after a preliminary examination by the veterinarians of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
It added that the animals would only be open for adoption when legal procedures were completed, which would be no sooner than the minimum quarantine period of four months.
“During investigation of the case, the SPCA will provide daily care and medical treatments for these animals, until we receive further notice from law enforcement agencies to arrange adoption for these animals,” it said.
The SPCA also urged members of the public to get the most updated information about this case via news and credible sources as it has been receiving an overwhelming amount of enquiries about it.
“We ask for your patience and refrain from overloading our hotline with enquiries, which may affect emergency calls for other animals in urgent need of assistance,” it added.