AVA may appeal against fine for man caught with illegal wildlife

Ong Ming Shiang was fined $41,000 on Feb 6 for having 32 animals, some endangered, in his Toa Payoh flat.

THE Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) is considering whether to appeal against a $41,000 fine levied on a man for keeping wildlife in a flat, following a local animal rights group's call for a harsher penalty.

The authority has filed a Notice of Appeal against the sentence handed out to Ong Ming Shiang, who had illegal possession of 32 wild or endangered animals, including a slow loris, it said in a recent statement.

It did so "after consulting" the Attorney-General's Chambers, an AVA spokesman told The Straits Times. "A final decision (on) whether to proceed with the appeal would only be made after we have studied the Notes of Evidence and Grounds of Decision," she added.

The move is the second time the AVA has sought legal action after a decision on an accused person brought before the courts.

In 2000, it filed an appeal against the acquittal of an offender charged with possessing two Lear's macaws that had been imported without a permit. These birds are listed as a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

"Following the appeal, the offender was sentenced to the maximum jail term of one year and a fine of $10,000," the AVA said.

In the latest case, the biggest seizure of illegal wildlife from a home in 11 years, Ong, 33, was fined on Feb 6 for having 32 animals, some endangered, including leopard tortoises and black-tailed prairie dogs, in a Toa Payoh North three-room flat.

Ong, who works in his father's provision shop, was convicted of contravening the Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act and the Wild Animals and Birds Act.

The maximum punishment for contravening the Endangered Species Act is a $500,000 fine and two years' jail. Those convicted under the Wild Animals and Birds Act can be fined up to $1,000.

News that the AVA was looking into an appeal has been welcomed by local wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), which had sent a letter to the AVA on Feb 13 asking for a harsher sentence that includes a jail term against Ong.

Acres said jail would be a stronger deterrent.

Its chief executive Louis Ng, who expects the AVA to proceed to file an appeal, said: "Hopefully, a jail term will be imposed, which is in line with previous cases and will serve as a strong deterrent to wildlife traders."


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