Disturbing new pet trend involves live animals being shipped in ‘mystery boxes’

There are too many people trying to make a profit off of animals without any care for their wellbeing, like puppy mills and other unethical breeders. But some pet sellers take things to bizarre levels.

Some live animals are kept and sold as part of trendy “games,” like the dogs and cats who were offered as prizes in a game machine.

Now, a new trend has provoked outrage from animal lovers around the world: animals shipped as “blind boxes” to consumers through the mail, frequently resulting in death.

In China, “blind boxes” have been a recent and mostly harmless marketing trend, usually involving consumers buying something like toy without knowing exactly what it will be.

But the trend has now extended to animals: companies have shipped live pets—including cats and dogs, as well as creatures like turtles and spiders—to buyers through the mail.


At best, these animals end up in the hands of buyers who might not want them at all, which puts them at serious risk of abuse or abandonment.

“Most of the boxes say the animals are offspring of expensive dog breeds, but they’re just rural dogs,” Zhou, a member of group trying to save these animals, told Sixth Tone. “People buy them, and once they find they don’t like what’s in the blind box, they return the animals or just abandon them.” 


According to local Chinese media, mailing a live animal through express delivery is illegal, but the practice continues anyway by sellers looking to make a profit.

It has also been reported that these animals often arrive at their destination dead, from suffocation or starvation. In addition to being a horrific abuse of animals, it’s also been decried as a serious health hazard.

The horrifying trend has received attention as citizens have been sharing the story on Chinese social media site Weibo.

Meanwhile, animal groups have been taking action, attempting to shut down this abusive trade and rescue as many animals as possible.

Zhou told Sixth Tone that his group rescued 160 animals from a logistics depot, about to be shipped away. They could hear squealing coming from the “mystery boxes.”

The animals were found in a “pitiful state,” and while they were able to save most of them, four died.

“Animals are not prizes. They are not a ‘surprise’ to be won like stuffed toys in blind boxes, then tossed aside when they’re no longer interesting,” PETA Asia said in a statement to Newsweek.

“Many of these dogs and cats are not going to be the ‘prize’ these buyers want and will end up being neglected or tossed out on the street. China already has an overpopulation of unwanted dogs, and this will make it worse.”

The practice has received widespread condemnation, around the world and in China. Local state media site Xinhua called the sale of live animal blind boxes a “desecration of life” and a “blood business.”


In response to the controversy, some action has been taken to curb the sale of these blind boxes. ZTO Express, the courier company involved, issued a public apology, admitting they violated regulations by shipping live animals, and suspended a senior official.

But animal activists still fear that incidents like this will continue, as long as China continues to have lax animal rights laws.

“China’s lack of laws to protect small animals makes these problems difficult to solve,” Zhou told Sixth Tone. “If we want to prevent this happening again, we must have laws to restrain people’s behavior.”

How horrible. We feel so bad for all these animals who have to be shipped through the mail as part of a sick trend. Something needs to be done about this disturbing practice, immediately.

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