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Over 100 dogs and cats packaged and sold online as “pet mystery boxes” were dumped beside a road in Shanghai. Photo: Weibo

‘Blind boxes’ containing more than 100 live kittens and puppies found dumped as China’s latest mail-order pet craze continues

  • ‘Blind boxes’ evolved out of a recent craze over the last few years for sending surprise packages through the mail in China
  • Another blind box operation was shut down in May this year after a raid by animal rights activists, who say most of the animals do not survive

More than 100 puppies and kittens believed to have been purchased online as “blind boxes” were found abandoned in suburban Shanghai earlier this week, the latest case in China’s notorious live animal mail-order craze.

More than 30 puppies and 70 kittens packaged as blind boxes, also known as “pet mystery boxes”, were found dumped near a petrol station in Shanghai’s Jiading district and saved by animal rights activists and local authorities on Monday night, several volunteers who took part in the rescue told the South China Morning Post.

In May another illegal cat and dog mail-order courier operation offering blind boxes was exposed and shut down by animal rights activists in southwestern China.

The animals, mostly aged up to two months old, were in poor health and a few died after being rescued in a joint operation by animal rights groups, police, and veterinarians, said Jiang Lizhen, one of the volunteers involved in the rescue.

The animals were in poor health when rescuers found them. Photo: Weibo

It’s unclear who owned those boxes as the labels had been removed, but a nearby neighbour said delivery company ZTO, which has been fined previously for illegal transport of live animals, had dumped the cats and dogs, according to Jiang.

Local police organised a health check for the animals and launched an adoption initiative immediately after receiving calls from local residents, but the authorities have yet to disclose further information on the case.

Only a small percentage of animals saved from blind boxes, which evolved out of a recent craze in the last few years for sending surprise packages through the mail, will survive, said Jiang.

Some of the animals already dead by the time they were rescued. Photo: Weibo

“These kittens and puppies were just weaned and only two months old. They were in bad condition after a long journey, especially after suffering the heat in the day and the rain at night in the small cages,” Jiang said.

She has adopted three of the kittens, one of which has since died while the other two remain in poor health. Many others are being treated in veterinary clinics and several others have also died, according to Vivien Yuan, another volunteer.

Many residents offered help during the rescue, providing cages, water, and pet food for free. “I was really touched by those kind-hearted people, and especially thankful to the police officers,” said Yuan, who also leads an adoption platform for stray animals in Shanghai called Shanghai Adoption Day.

Chinese law forbids the transport of live animals via the courier system.

According to the activists who helped save the animals, many in China think of pets as toys that can be discarded without any thought. Photo: Weibo

Commenting on why the gimmick kept recurring, Jiang said many people regard an animal companion as a toy and do not realise the needs of the animals.

“They play with the animals when they want and abandon them when they don’t want them any more,” she said.

“Also, some others are too stingy to buy a rare, foreign cat through proper procedures and have the mentality that they might be lucky enough to get one from a surprise box,” she said.

“People sell because there are buyers, otherwise there wouldn’t be such a market.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Mail-order pets found dumped on street