PENANG: The Veterinary Services Department has temporarily stopped issuing permits for the import of prairie dogs following the outbreak of monkeypox in the United States.
Department public relations officer Dr Rosini Alias said yesterday that the temporary freeze was with immediate effect, until further notice.
She said the department had issued permits for the import of 140 prairie dogs between 1999 and 2002, all through the airport in Penang.
She said 50 prairie dogs were brought into the country through the airport in 1999, 30 in 2001 and 60 (2002).
No permits were issued in 2000 and this year, she said.
Dr Rosini was commenting on a report that medical authorities in the US had detected an outbreak of monkeypox, apparently spread from pet prairie dogs to people.
Monkeypox in humans is not usually fatal, but causes rashes, fever and chills.
Several pet shop owners, when met yesterday, said they did not have any stock of the pets at their shops.
Victor Cheng, director of Toby Pet Supplies Sdn Bhd at Jalan Air Itam, said his shop had sold prairie dogs several years ago.
My supplier in Kuala Lumpur told me that the pets which are mostly imported from Holland are out of stock, he said.
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