Around 5,000 dead pets were recently found in mail package boxes at Dongxing logistics station in Henan Province in Central China, Global Times reported.
Thousands of dogs, cats, rabbits, and hamsters were found in small boxes in Luohe city.
The animals were transported in plastic or iron cages, which were enclosed in paper boxes.
Here are some photos from the heartbreaking scene:
Animals died of suffocation, starvation or thirst
A member of the Chinese animal rescue organisation Wutuobang, Dan, told Global Times that 20 members from their organisation rushed to rescue the animals on Sep. 22.
Various Chinese media reported that a total of 1,074 animals survived from this ordeal. This includes 877 rabbits, 99 hamsters, 70 dogs, and 28 cats.
Volunteers at scene prepared some canned food and vaccination for these animals, China Times video shows.
Some of the rescued animals have been adopted by families while others are being treated at vet clinics subsequently.
As for the animals that did not make it, about 5,000 pet animals had died due to suffocation, starvation, or thirst, Dan told Global Times:
"The stinking boxes cluttered the station, and lots of animals inside had died of suffocation, starvation or thirst."
It was reported that some of the dead animals were buried under farmland.
Illegal packages were from a pet breeding farm
The animals were sent from breeding farms in Anhui and Jiangsu provinces and were destined for buyers who ordered them online as pets, according to China Times.
The animals travelled from the farms in East China to a logistics station in Zhengzhou city in Central China, and were later transported to Dongxing logistics station in Luohe city.
Many of the animals died along the way.
Two employees of the express delivery company Yunda (which was responsible for the packages) confirmed with Global Times that the company allows express delivery of live animals in boxes with holes.
However, they had not heard of the incident.
Another animal rescue volunteer said that the breeding farms paid a huge fee to Yunda to do so as the mailing of live animals in regular packages via post is banned in China.
Global Times added that the rules that regulate that live animals cannot be mailed in packages are not enforced as there are no corresponding penalties.
Local authorities are investigating the incident.
Top images via Weibo