Woman caught smuggling live cat onto plane in handbag
A Canadian woman who managed to hide her cat Bella in her handbag during a flight to New Zealand was rumbled at the airport and sent home.
The authorities said the "very docile" four-year-old cat may have been drugged to keep her drowsy as she crossed the Pacific Ocean.
The woman and her husband might have got away with their cat-smuggling ruse if their boots had not been muddy when they arrived at Auckland Airport.
The couple said they had nothing to declare but b order agents then decided they had muddy boots which needed inspecting, Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman Craig Hughes said.
Agents then moved the couple's bags to an X-ray machine, and Mr Hughes said the woman was "very reluctant" to have her small handbag X-rayed, insisting it had already been checked.
She finally admitted there was a cat inside, Mr Hughes said, but then claimed she had told a ticketing agent about Bella when she purchased her ticket.
Mr Hughes said even if the woman's story were true, which he doubted, it was still unacceptable to bring a cat across the border without declaring it. He said foreign cats could bring with them ticks and diseases that are not present in New Zealand.
The spokesman called the woman's actions "reckless and dangerous". New Zealand has strict regulations for importing pets. Cats and dogs from most approved countries must have an implanted microchip and be kept in quarantine for a minimum of 10 days after arrival.
Mr Hughes said the woman and her husband, both in their mid to late-20s, managed to conceal the cat from the flight crew and other passengers during the 7,000-mile flight from Vancouver to Auckland.
"Apparently it was a very quiet cat. Very docile," Mr Hughes said, adding that it may have been given some drugs to make it drowsy.
He said the woman was upset about being refused entry to New Zealand and sent back home.
"She had plans to have a nice holiday with her husband in New Zealand," he said. "And her cat."