Aug. 23 (UPI) -- A decision by the government of Taiwan to euthanize more than 150 cats over the weekend, which were intercepted aboard a fishing boat, has drawn outrage and calls for change from advocates and residents on the island.
The smuggled cats were discovered aboard a fishing vessel from China late last week that had been stopped for COVID-19 screening. When the caged cats were found, they were seized -- and all 154 were ultimately put down.
Taipei said the decision was made to euthanize the animals because their origin was unknown and they presented a biosecurity risk.
Taiwanese law requires permits, inspections and quarantining of animals prior to entry. If the requirements are not met, animals are either killed or denied entry.
Officials estimated that the cats had a value of about $300,000.
Several animal rights groups have condemned the move and called for amendments that ensure humane treatment of smuggled animals. One recommendation asks for the animals to be adoptable after inspection and quarantine.
Taiwan's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection chief Fu Hsueh-li told Taiwan News that the cats were put down to prevent the possibility of importing infectious diseases.
The cats were of several types, including Persian American Shorthair, Ragdoll, Russian Blue and British Shorthair.
Animal rights groups urged prosecutors to investigate and noted that the cats were euthanized on Saturday, which was International Homeless Animals Day.
Taiwan has a high rate of pet ownership and large industries around caring for domesticated animals.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who owns two cats, said she was saddened by the cats' fate but said the smugglers were responsible. She also agreed that there should be amendments that ensure more humane treatment of animals.