Shopping sites in China are being accused of animal cruelty for allegedly shipping "mystery boxes" to customers containing live puppies and kittens. According to local reports, many of the animals suffer significant harm in transit.
Chengdu Love Home Animal Rescue Center shared on Weibo that it found 160 crates containing cats and dogs in the back of a delivery truck in Chengdu earlier this week. A video from the incident features distressed animals tightly packed together in small crates, apparently lacking any food or water.
The organization, which has been sharing updates on the health of the animals on Weibo all week, said it rescued "hundreds" of very frightened young puppies and kittens, many of which appeared to be struggling to breathe. They said that they disinfected, cleaned and fed them, before sending many to animal hospitals for treatment.
Volunteers said that the crates were disguised as regular deliveries, due to be shipped to cities across the country. Shipping live animals in this way is illegal in China.
Sixth Tone, a state media site, reported that at least four of the rescued animals have died. One volunteer for the rescue organization told the outlet that residents near the site of the incident had been hearing howling animals for weeks.
The organization called for a protest of these "blind boxes," an e-commerce trend also popular in the U.S., in which consumers order boxes of items without knowing what they contain, often for very low prices. Sixth Tone said that e-commerce sites Taobao and Pinduoduo have both offered blind boxes containing many kinds of live animals, including turtles and hamsters.
According to the rescue organization, many of these animals end up abandoned if customers are unhappy with their boxes.
Mystery boxes for random products like shampoo and phone cases can be found on Taobao, for as little as $1.50, but many local media outlets report that the site has removed all animal-related listings. CBS News couldn't find any listings for live animals under "mystery boxes" on Taobao as of Friday.
Many Weibo users expressed outrage over the situation, condemning not only the retail sites, but also logistics companies and law enforcement for allowing the issue to continue without consequences. Users said the boxes are both animal cruelty and a public health threat. Many called on the government to introduce stronger legislation to protect animals.
The company responsible for the shipment, ZTO, apologized for the incident, adding that the manager in charge of services in the region was suspended. The company said it would improve training procedures, People's Daily Online reported.