It was 107 degrees inside the truck.
Anyone familiar with Fresno County, California or just general California weather knows that it can get extremely hot during the summer, which is exactly what happened last Friday while residents were passing by an abandoned box truck. Local residents began to smell something awful as they walked by so they contacted the authorities, and it’s a good thing they did; when Fresno Humane Animal Services (FHAS) arrived, they were horrified at what they found inside the back of the truck.
“We responded to a complaint about the smell of ‘something dead,'” Brenda Mitchell, board president for FHAS, told The Dodo. “The back of it was filled — and I mean from front to back — with these small bird cages.”
The cages were filled with a variety of animals, including bunnies, guinea pigs, birds, baby pigs, chickens, and ducklings. On top of being crammed into cages, the animals appeared to have no water and there was no ventilation in the truck. When a rescuer did a temperature test, the truck’s inner temperature turned out to be 107 degrees.
“Most of the animals we could see had no water,” Mitchell said. “The first thing was get food and water in the survivors and then we started getting them out of their cages.”
Unfortunately, 18 innocent animals lost their lives that day, but thankfully there were 955 survivors that withstood the heat and dehydration until rescuers arrived. All of the animals were immediately seized and taken care of by staff and volunteers, who transported them to their temporary home at the shelter.
Mitchell is pretty certain that the person driving the truck must have been on their way to a public sale, such as a flea market or swap meet, when they abandoned the truck there, although it’s unclear what their motives were. Mitchell says that it’s illegal to sell animals in this capacity in Fresno County and that their investigation into the matter will be aggressive so that offenders know that this won’t be tolerated. She hopes that this serves as a lesson to the public about where the animals they buy on the streets really come from and the lack of care they are shown by their previous owners.
“It’s really important that people rethink where they get their pets,” Mitchell said. “They can adopt — they don’t need to buy them from pet stores.”
In the meantime, the survivors seem to be enjoying their new digs at the shelter and are exhibiting their happiness in all sorts of ways. Mitchell said that the bunnies hopped and ran around when they were released from their cages and the birds are now able to stretch out their wings a bit with the added space. Donations have also started slowly rolling in for the shelter, which has limited resources, and the staff is excited that the community is supportive of the rescue.
“Food is always needed and we have quite a variety of different types of pets here, so you really can’t go wrong with donating bird food and rabbit food,” Mitchell said. “We actually have someone sending us 250 small bird toys, and we’re really excited because we don’t think these birds have ever had toys before.”
If you would like to donate to FHAS and help these animals, you can do so here.