The animals included rabbits, guinea pigs, cats and dogs, all held in plastic or metal cages wrapped in cardboard boxes with breathing holes
At least 5,000 pets have been found dead in cardboard shipping boxes at a logistics facility in Central China.
The casualties are likely the result of a miscommunication in the supply chain of China's thriving mass-breeding industry.
Following the discovery, authorities launched an investigation into the incident in Henan Province, said a local animal rescue group on Wednesday, reports CBS News.
"The station was cluttered with express boxes with thousands of animals that had already died, and the entire place reeks of rotting bodies," said Sister Hua, founder of animal rescue group Utopia.
"It was like a living hell."
The animals included rabbits, guinea pigs, cats and dogs, all held in plastic or metal cages wrapped in cardboard boxes with breathing holes. They had been left in the boxes without food or water for about a week before they were discovered at the Dongxing Logistics station in Henan's Luohe city.
"It was obvious they died of suffocation, dehydration and starvation," said Hua.
Chinese law prohibits the shipping of live animals in normal packaging. The animals were likely bought online as pets but left stranded at the logistics depot because of a delayed collection.
"Miscommunication inside the shipping company and the inconsistency of the implementation of shipping regulations directly led to the tragedy," Hua said. "Of course, both buyers and sellers bear the responsibility too."