Over 100 cats and dogs being sold in “mystery boxes” were rescued in Shanghai on Monday, igniting new discussions on animal welfare and postal regulations in China.
Where they were found: The animals, which were mostly kittens, were found in front of a residential community in the Jiading district, according to reports. The boxes were believed to be abandoned by the courier company transporting them.
It’s unclear how long the boxes had been at the site. By the time volunteers arrived, the animals had been rained on, according to Jiemian News.
The area reportedly gave off a foul smell as some of the cats and dogs had died. Videos posted on Weibo show volunteers freeing the animals from their boxes and veterinarians immediately checking on their health.
Police officers also responded to the scene to investigate and help coordinate adoptions. As of 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, a total of 71 cats and 36 dogs had been taken home, the Global Times reported.
The bigger picture: Monday’s rescue comes months after over 100 cats and dogs were freed from similar conditions in Chengdu, Sichuan province. These animals are victims of so-called “mystery boxes,” an e-commerce shopping craze in China.
Mystery boxes, sometimes called “blind boxes,” reportedly contain anything from cheap toys to watches to smart phones. For as little as 32 yuan ($5), they may also surprise customers with live pets, CNN reported.
The Chengdu rescue, which took place on May 3, uncovered 156 crates of kittens and puppies. The animals were found in a truck run by delivery company ZTO Express, which has since apologized for its “misconduct” and closed the facility where the truck concealing the crates was found.
In September 2020, around 5,000 pets — including cats, dogs and rabbits — were found dead in boxes at a facility in Luohe, Henan province. Like the more recent cases, the animals were also supposed to be shipped.
Chinese law prohibits the transport of live animals through regular postal channels. For animals and animal products to be shipped by rail, highway, waterway or air, consignors must secure quarantine certificates and present them to carriers.
The Shanghai rescue sparked new discussions on animal welfare and postal regulations on Weibo. Many online condemned the responsible parties for their lack of compassion, while others called for the creation of new laws to protect pets.
What ZTO is saying: ZTO Express, which was fined 80,000 yuan (around $12,400) for the Chengdu case, was also blamed for the boxes found in Shanghai. On Tuesday afternoon, the company issued a statement claiming that it had nothing to do with the incident, according to Beijing Business Today.
ZTO Express said it reported the matter to police, providing information on cargo owners and carriers. The company also insisted that they followed postal regulations and that they “strictly prohibit” the delivery of cats, dogs and other pets throughout the company’s network.
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