Animal rights groups in China found more than 1,400 dogs and cats on a "death truck."
Around 370 of the dogs and cats had died by the time they were discovered, said activists.
The animals were being transported to Yulin county, where the dog and cat meat trade is prevalent.
More than 1,400 dead or dying dogs and cats were discovered on a truck headed for slaughterhouses in Yulin, south China, said animal rights activists who intercepted the vehicle last week.
Out of the 1,408 animals found, 378 dogs and cats were already dead by the time the truck was stopped, Humane Society International, or HSI, said on October 10.
The rescuers, comprising local animal groups and anti-dog meat trade campaigners, said they saved the remaining 1,000 or so dogs and cats from what they called the "death truck."
Some of these animals had to be given emergency treatment on the roadside, and many suffered open wounds, broken bones, respiratory disease, and severe dehydration, HSI said.
They're now being treated and cared for by staff at local shelters, the organization added.
"The smell of death, diarrhea and vomit was overwhelming," said Hao Dayue, an activist with the Capital Animal Welfare Association, speaking to HSI.
"I saw a number of dogs and cats die on the roadside despite desperate attempts to help them, there was nothing that could be done but hold them as they passed away," Hao said.
Hao estimated that most of the 718 dogs on the truck were stolen pets, and that the 690 cats were likely strays.
Police stopped the "death truck" on a highway in Hubei province, about halfway along the transport's 745-mile journey from Fucheng county to Yulin county, HSI said.
The truck's two drivers were detained by police and reported to officials at Xiantao, a city in Hubei province, per HSI.
The trader who hired them and acquired the dogs and cats also faces investigation by China's Agriculture Bureau on charges of transporting sick animals across provinces without the proper documentation, the organization said.
The Ministry of Agriculture did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
China does not have nationwide animal protection laws that prohibit cruel treatment of animals. Beijing banned the trade and consumption of wildlife in February 2020, following speculation that COVID-19 may have spread to humans from live animals at Chinese wet markets.
The eating of dogs and cats is typically only found in a select few places in China, but the practice can be prevalent in those limited locations.
The Yulin Dog Meat Festival is one of China's best-known events that involves the consumption of dog meat, and it often faces opposition from animal rights groups in the region.
HSI estimated that 10 million dogs and 4 million cats are killed for human consumption each year in China.
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