Warning: Distressing content
Animal rescuers have reported a horrifying scene in a Chinese shipping depot, describing a "living hell" of up to 5,000 pets dead in cardboard boxes.
The massive death toll was likely caused by miscommunication at the facility in Henan Province.
Authorities have now launched an investigation into the horrific incident, which saw only a fraction of the animals survive.
"The station was cluttered with express boxes with thousands of animals that had already died, and the entire place reeks of rotting bodies," Sister Hua, the founder of animal rescue group Utopia, told CBS News.
"It was like a living hell."
The animals, including cats, dog, guinea pigs and rabbits, had breathing holes in their cardboard boxes but had been without food or water for a week before they were discovered at the Dongxing Logistics station in Luohe city.
"It was obvious they died of suffocation, dehydration and starvation," Hua told CBS.
She said she believed the animals were left dumped at the station because the logistics company involved refused to transport them.
The law in China prohibits animals being transported in normal packaging.
Miscommunication inside the shipping company and the inconsistency of the implementation of shipping regulations directly led to the tragedy," Hua told CBS. "Of course, both buyers and sellers bear the responsibility, too."
The company involved, Yunda, told the Global Times that they were not aware of the incident but confirmed the company allows the express delivery of live animals. "Animals are transported in boxes with holes," they said.