WARNING - DISTRESSING CONTENT: At least 5,000 pets including dogs, cats and rabbits have died after they were dumped and abandoned in delivery boxes at a depot centre.
The animals, the majority of which were younger than one month old, are understood to be pets purchased online from a breeding farm in China’s Anhui province – a growing practice that contributes to the nation’s surging e-commerce sector.
Thousands of small cages packed into delivery boxes were discovered piled up in “mountains” at the Dongxing depot in the city of Luohe, in northeast China.
Yang Aihua, an official with Luohe’s commerce bureau, told The Beijing News the delivery was refused at the depot when staff discovered it contained live animals.
Chinese law prohibits the mailing of live animals via postal companies or in postage packaging, however such laws are rarely enforced, lawyer Zhang Bo told Chinese state-media publication the Global Times.
Despite the depot refusing the animals, the courier company dumped the animals at the facility, Yang said.
Utopia Animal Rescue were called to the facility on September 22, five days after the delivery was abandoned at the site where the animals had gone without food and water.
“When we got there, there were several small mountains of boxes containing animals. Many of them were dead and had started to rot and give off terrible smells,” a female volunteer said.
“We’ve done rescues before but this was the first time I had experienced something this tragic.”
Distressing video shared across Chinese social media site Weibo shows volunteers desperately trying to save severely dehydrated animals, working their way through the thousands of boxes.
More than 870 rabbits, 99 hamsters, 70 dogs and 28 cats were saved by the animal welfare group, the South China Morning Post reported.
Volunteers and pet stores are caring for the animals that are sick, while homes are being sourced for the healthy.
Investigations into the incident are ongoing as to who was responsible, with courier company Yutang Express distancing itself from the matter after video showed its labels printed on the abandoned packages.
The company told Jiemian News the labels were old labels and had unlawfully been reused.
The volunteer, who gave her name as Dan, said animal groups continue to call for bans on selling animals online and their transportation.
The depot centre has been professionally disinfected after the dead animals were removed. Many of them have been buried.
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