Thousands of dead cats, dogs and other house pets were found in shipping boxes at a logistics facility in Central China after they were left without food or water for about a week, reports said.
“It was like a living hell,” said Sister Hua, the founder of animal rescue group Utopia who goes by a pseudonym, according to CBS News Wednesday.
“The station was cluttered with express boxes with thousands of animals that had already died, and the entire place reeks of rotting bodies.”
A total of 5,000 cats, dogs, guinea pigs and rabbits were found dead at the Dongxing Logistics facility in Henan’s Luohe city after they went without nourishment for about a week, the outlet reported. Only 200 rabbits and 50 dogs and cats made it out alive with help from Hua and 20 fellow volunteers, she told CBS.
Disturbing photos taken from the scene show dead bunnies, kittens and puppies on a black sheet — all of which likely succumbed to “suffocation, dehydration and starvation” after being left in plastic or metal cages wrapped in cardboard boxes with punctured breathing holes, the outlet reported.
Hua said the tragedy is a result of miscommunication issues related to China’s live animal supply chain.
“Miscommunication inside the shipping company and the inconsistency of the implementation of shipping regulations directly led to the tragedy,” the activist told the outlet.
“Of course, both buyers and sellers bear the responsibility, too.”
The animals were likely purchased online as pets, but shipping live animals in normal packaging is prohibited in China, Hua explained. She said Dongxing Logistics may have refused to sign off on a shipment that violated transport laws, leaving the animals stranded at the facility, she said.
The company that shipped the pets, Yunda, told the state-run Global Times newspaper they weren’t aware of the incident but staff confirmed they allowed live animals to be shipped in boxes with holes.
Many of the rescued animals were adopted on site while the severely sick pets were taken to veterinarians, the outlet said. Local officials have arranged for the dead animals to be collected, disinfected and buried as they launch an investigation into how the tragedy occurred.
Hua said the grim discovery isn’t just an abhorrent treatment of defenseless animals, it also poses a danger to public health, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic, which ostensibly originated from bats at a Wuhan wet market.
“Given the COVID-19 pandemic we are facing, it’s so terrifying to have those live animals transported that way, and even ending up dead,” Hua told CBS.
“Go for adoption instead of illegal buying and shipping of animals,” she insisted as she urged authorities in China to “strictly enforce” rules on shipping live animals.