WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A Canadian woman who authorities say managed to hide her 4-year-old pet cat Bella in her handbag during a flight across the Pacific Ocean had her vacation cut short when border agents discovered the ruse at Auckland Airport.
Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman Craig Hughes said Thursday that the woman was refused entry into the country and was forced to catch the next flight home with her cat after she tried to smuggle it across the border. He 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.
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 (11,300-kilometer) flight from Vancouver to Auckland.
"Apparently it was a very quiet cat. Very docile," Hughes said, adding that it may have been given some drugs to make it drowsy.
He said that when the couple arrived at the airport, they said they had nothing to declare. He said border agents then determined they had muddy boots which needed inspecting. Agents then moved the couple's bags to an X-ray machine.
Hughes said the woman was "very reluctant" to have her small handbag X-rayed and insisted it had already been checked. She finally admitted there was a cat inside, Hughes said, but then said she'd told a ticketing agent about Bella when she purchased her ticket.
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 aren't present in New Zealand.
He said the woman got upset about being sent back home.
"She had plans to have a nice holiday with her husband in New Zealand," Hughes said. "And her cat."