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Puppies and kittens were rescued in a joint anti-smuggling operation in Ha Pak Lai in the early hours of Thursday. Photo: Handout

Hong Kong police, customs officers rescue 75 kittens and puppies from being smuggled to mainland China

  • Pedigree kittens and puppies, worth HK$1.2 million, were being loaded from van onto speedboat when officers intervened
  • Two suspects jumped aboard speedboat and managed to escape from high-speed pursuit vessels, according to police

Hong Kong police and customs officers confiscated 75 pedigree kittens and puppies with a market value of up to HK$30,000 (US$3,800) each while they were being smuggled into mainland China in the early hours of Thursday.

A source said he believed the 62 kittens and 13 puppies, estimated to be worth about HK$1.2 million in total, were intended for Shekou for breeding.

A speedboat fixed with an outboard engine was spotted entering Hong Kong waters from the mainland and manoeuvring in Deep Bay off Lau Fau Shan around 1.30am on Thursday. A suspected smuggler was seen on board the boat at the time.

One of the puppies rescued in a joint anti-smuggling operation in Ha Pak Lai. Photo: Handout

When it berthed at the Nim Wan Road waterfront in the Ha Pak Lai area, a delivery van drove in. The site is several kilometres away from Lau Fau Shan.

As the driver of the van was moving some crates from his vehicle to the speedboat, officers moved in.

According to police, the man then jumped onto the boat which sped off heading towards the mainland. Two high-speed pursuit boats were deployed to give chase.

“During the pursuit, the speedboat took advantage of oyster farms at sea to cause obstacles for the pursuing boats,” a source said.

Some of the kittens that were rescued in a joint anti-smuggling operation in Ha Pak Lai on Thursday. Photo: Handout

He said the 10-metre-long speedboat managed to leave Hong Kong waters, speeding towards Shekou.

He said the speedboat took about 10 minutes to get from the Ha Pak Lai site to the maritime boundary between Hong Kong and the mainland.

On the shore, the 75 kittens and puppies, all well-known breeds, were found inside 17 crates in the delivery van. Police said the haul had an estimated value of HK$1.2 million.

The source said the dogs and cats were very young – just several months old – and they could be sold for as much as HK$30,000 each in the city.

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He said it was the first time in recent years that puppies and kittens being smuggled from Hong Kong to the mainland were confiscated by local authorities.

“It is possible there is a demand for these animals in the mainland for breeding,” the source said.

The dogs and cats were later picked up by officers from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

Another source said police and customs officers were investigating the source of the animals and trying to track down the owner of the vehicle. So far, no arrests have been made.

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The city’s largest seizure of pets was made in a joint anti-smuggling operation by police and customs in August. A total of 101 kittens and 35 ­puppies, shipped from the mainland, were confiscated aboard a speedboat which was intercepted in northwestern waters.

A 30-year-old man was arrested aboard the boat. He was detained on suspicion of importing unmanifested cargo, animal cruelty and endangering the safety of others at sea.

Another haul of pedigree animals from the mainland was seized in January when 30 kittens and seven puppies were confiscated along with HK$4.1 million worth of contraband comprising frozen bull penis and deer tails at the Ha Pak Lai coastal area.