After gold, drugs and currency, officials at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport have added pet dogs to their list of ‘smuggled’ goods to watch out for.
Recently, staff manning the X-ray machines at the arrival hall found an unconscious dog stuffed between clothes in the suitcase of a woman travelling to the city from eastern Europe. She confessed to having sedated her pet and put it in her check-in luggage.
Customs officials have come across four such cases of “dog smuggling” in the last three months. The owners did it to avoid documentation work, sources said.
Bringing in a pet through legal channels requires a no-objection certificate from the animal quarantine station of the destination country. The pet can come either as check-in luggage or air cargo.
There was another case of a dog stashed in a bag popping up on the X-ray screen.
“Then there was a Delhi-based woman bringing in her dog from the US. She had a veterinarian’s certificate but no NOC from an Indian authority.
She refused to leave the airport and we gave her space in our office to sleep. She spent three days there and once she got the necessary permission, we let her go,” said Vinayak Azaad, additional commissioner of customs.
Sedating pets can put their lives at risk, say experts. “Even the radiation from the X-ray machine is harmful. It is shocking that pet owners are doing this just to avoid paper work,” said an official.
In another case, a couple from Punjab who were travelling from Canada were stopped while trying to get their two dogs in without the necessary clearance and asked to go back.
“Every day, over 25,000 passengers land in Terminal 3 from international destinations and it is impossible to check each of them. Our staff keeps a check on smuggling of gold and narcotic substances. But stopping passengers bringing in dogs illegally is almost impossible,” admitted a customs official.