Row over diplomat’s choice won’t affect ties: Aussie envoy

By Joseph Yeh, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A recent row over the Australian representative to Taiwan’s decision to sue a veterinarian over the envoy’s pet dog will not affect bilateral relations between Taiwan and Australia, the de facto Australian embassy in Taipei said yesterday. “This is a personal matter of the pet’s owner, and the incident will not affect Taiwan-Australian relations,” the Australian Office in Taipei told local media yesterday. The office’s comment came after an Australian newspaper report on Tuesday that said Kevin Magee, Australia’s top envoy to Taiwan, recently decided to sue Taipei-based vet Yang Tung-sheng (楊東勝) over matters concerning Magee’s 10-year-old street mutt, Benji. The publication described the incident as “a minor international crisis.” Quoting both an English expat Sean McCormack, who runs an animal shelter in Taiwan, and an unnamed Australian expatriate in Taiwan, the story published by the Sydney Morning Herald dated Aug. 27 said the incident has damaged Australia’s reputation in Taiwan. Benji was a pet dog who originally belonged to Magee’s predecessor. She was kept at the Australian Office, Australia’s de facto embassy in Taipei, after Magee’s predecessor left her job in Taipei for China.

In July, Benji had a stroke and was taken to Yang by Magee’s Filipino maid, with instructions that Benji be put down, reports said. Yang then took the money for euthanizing and cremating Benji but didn’t go through with the operation. He instead took the dog home, where he continued to treat it at his expense. The dog later recovered from the stroke, according to reports.  Benji, however, escaped from Yang’s home in mid-August and was on her way home to the Australian Office when it was picked up by the dog catcher.

The dog was then put in an animal shelter and Magee was informed of the news by staff at the shelter. The Australian envoy later accused Yang of breaking the contract and sought to sue him for fraud, Yang said in Chinese-language reports. Magee’s Statement Asked to comment on the incident, Magee said in a statement earlier this month that “Our family came to the difficult decision to have Benji humanely euthanized to save her needless indignity and suffering.” “We did so on the advice of the family vet, and in consultation with Benji’s previous owners,” he was quoted in the statement as saying.   ”We trusted the vet and were shocked to learn that Benji had been found wandering on the street. Thankfully, she was taken to an animal shelter. Benji has now returned to our home,” it noted.