About 4,000 dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals, believed to have been bought online as pets, were found dead in boxes in China, an animal welfare group said on Thursday.
The grisly tragedy took place at a logistics hub in central China where the animals were stranded for nearly a week.
Rescuers managed to save just over 1,000 rabbits, hamsters, dogs and cats but the rest had perished by the time they arrived at the Dongxing facility in Luohe, Henan province on September 22, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.
“We’ve done rescues before but this was the first time I had experienced something this tragic," said a volunteer with the NGO Utopia Animal Rescue, who gave her name as Dan.
“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, " she told the Post describing the grisly scene at the depot.
Authorities are investigating the incident, which has again raised concerns over the lack of regulation of online pet sales in China.
A burgeoning e-commerce industry means almost anything, including live animals, can be bought online but pets are often illegally transported in unsafe conditions by courier companies, it added.