Scores of cats and dogs were found packed this week as surprise deliveries inside “pet mystery boxes” on a courier truck in Chengdu, the capital of southwestern Sichuan province in China.
The cries of the animals, totaling more than 160, alerted animal rescue volunteers. Many of them were barely breathing, and four were already dead upon discovery.
They were tucked within plastic boxes, which were in turn enclosed in cardboard paper or put into a bag, just like any other parcel delivery, an online video clip showed. Some of the boxes held three small animals. The plastic boxes were tightly stacked 10 layers high on the truck.
The cats and dogs kept up the commotion because they were frightened, the volunteers said. After the discovery, the truck was blocked from leaving the scene.
In January, the use of mail parcels to deliver live pets sold on e-commerce platforms was first exposed. Despite heavy criticism from the public, merchants in the country have nevertheless continued with their trade of these pet mystery boxes.
The latest case was unearthed on Monday, when the volunteers rescued more than 100 dogs and 30 to 40 cats aged between one and three months.
Pet lovers who learned of the incident online went to take care of the animals. They opened the boxes to let in fresh air and fed the dogs and cats with water using a syringe.
This batch of boxes was to have been sent to Chengdu addresses and Guangdong province, the volunteers said. Delivery slips showed that most were mixed breeds.
It was understood that all the rescued dogs and cats had been temporarily placed with a pet shop in Chengdu and would be transferred to animal shelters after quarantine.
The truck driver, meanwhile, said he was only making deliveries, without any knowledge of the content.
ZTO Express admitted the incident and said the company had suspended the operation of a delivery facility in Lotus Pond Market. It had also halted the duties of Sichuan employees in charge of courier safety and cut their bonuses.
Local government departments were said to be shifting the blame. Chengdu police said that the relevant law enforcement responsibility did not lie with them, while the agriculture and rural affairs body claimed to be overseeing only animal transport and anti-epidemic efforts, but not business disputes.
Both internet users and the state media were infuriated. China Central Television published a commentary slamming pet mystery boxes as a betrayal of human nature, in which people wanted to build happiness on the suffering of animals. “Were the heart not blind, there would not have been such errant and despicable deliveries,” it said. CCTV called for heavy punishment on the delivery company.
In March last year, the State Post Bureau issued a notice to prohibit the mailing and courier of live animals. An animal quarantine law that came into effect on May 1 also barred the delivery of live animals.
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