‘Pet mystery box’: China’s dog and cat mail-order craze causes new outrage

May 07, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership AI
Original reporting by Alice Yan, SCMP

An illegal cat and dog mail-order courier operation, which offered an online pet sale gimmick also known as a ‘pet mystery box’, has been exposed and shut down by animal rights activists in Southwestern China.

Chengdu Municipal Postal Administration in Sichuan province revealed this week that it had launched an investigation into courier operation Hehuachi Station of ZTO Express for sending live animals through the postal system.

Volunteers from Chengdu Love Home Animal Rescuing Centre found workers at the delivery station had packaged a total of 156 cats and dogs into separate boxes before couriering them in vans, state media CCTV reported.

When the volunteers arrived at the station in the city’s Jinniu District earlier this week they were greeted by screeching animals. The animals were found wrapped up in boxes with plastic bags, making it difficult for them to breathe. The volunteers also found four dead animals.

“Once the doors of the van close, the animals in it will definitely be suffocated to death,” Chen Yulian, founder of the animal centre said.

Chen said the delivery station did not feed the animals before delivery to prevent them from defecating during transit. She added that when animals died during transportation, workers would just dump the bodies on the side of the road.

China Youth Daily reported that the animals were sold by Chengdu Sanlian Flower and Bird Market as “pet mystery boxes” to online customers.

China’s Postal Law bans the sending of live animals, however, pet mystery boxes have become popular on online websites in the last year, with customers not knowing what type of animal they will receive until the box arrives.

It only costs 20-30 yuan (US$3.10 to US$4.64) to buy a pet mystery box, sometimes as cheap as only 9.9 yuan (US$1.53), China Youth Daily reported.

“Both the seller and the delivery company are crazy! Do they have any conscientiousness?” wrote one user on Weibo.

“I am extremely outraged! These small animals are so poor. I beg the public not to buy any of these boxes any more,” another commenter said.

Residents in the neighbourhood of the delivery station told CCTV that the station had packaged and transported live animals for the last six months, usually under the cover of darkness.

“I make a living by doing the courier service. I have only a primary school diploma. I don’t know of any laws,” a manager from the courier station told CCTV.

“For anyone hiring me to send products, I will just do it,” said the man, whose name was not given in the report.

Following the scandal, Shanghai-based ZTO Express has ordered Hehuachi Station to suspend its operations pending an inquiry.

The rescued animals have been sent by the agricultural authority to quarantine.

According to the agreement between the Sanlian Flower and Bird Market and the animal rescuing centre, these animals will be taken care of at the centre.

The centre said the animals will be available for public adoption in the future.

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