Video Credit: AsiaWire
This is the moment an elderly animal shelter owner breaks down crying over the charred bodies of 16 dogs and cats burnt alive during a suspected arson fire after she went out on a 20-minute lunch break.
The blaze left her with serious injuries on her arms and face as she rescued over half a dozen elderly blind pooches.
The woman in her 60s who is known affectionately as ‘Aunty Zhou’ runs the shelter in the city of Zibo in East China’s Shandong Province, where her animals had previously been targeted by arsonists twice before.
Picture Credits: AsiaWire
The blaze was started on 22nd April when Ms Zhou left the shelter for just 20 minutes in order to buy lunch, according to reports.
When she got back, some of the cages containing the 257 dogs and cats in her care had been set alight, and she desperately tried to free as many animals as possible.
Images of Ms Zhou show her arm covered in blisters and the skin on her face peeling as a result of her burn injuries, which were fortunately not life-threatening.
Video also shows her crying as other animal rights volunteers gather around her and the carcasses of 12 dogs and four cats which were charred alive during the blaze, which is suspected to be linked to arson.
Ms Zhou and a second volunteer were unable to put out the fire, which was finally stopped from spreading by the local fire service.
She recalled: “I went out to get lunch and noticed smoke rising from the direction of the shelter. I had a feeling the shelter was on fire, so I drove back.
“When I arrived, the fire was very large, but I rushed in to save the dogs.
“I rescued seven of them, the old and blind ones. I carried them out.”
Authorities with the Zhangdian Police Station say they are investigating the case, with no suspects named thus far.
Jason Baker, PETA Asia Vice President of International Campaigns, said to Asia Wire in a statement: “Anyone with a heart will agree that this act of violence was abhorrently cruel, and it’s crucial that the perpetrators be caught and punished.
PETA hopes this very sad incident will shine a light on the valiant efforts that animal shelters make to rescue dogs from the streets, and we encourage everyone who can offer an animal a permanent, loving home to adopt one from a shelter.”
The not-for-profit’s press officer for China, Keith Guo, told the agency during a phone interview: “This is yet another tragedy for stray animals who encounter hunger, disease and even violence from abusers.
“PETA urges everyone who wants a furry family member to adopt from shelters, never buy from pet stores, and always spay or neuter them – this is the crucial way to solving the stray animal crisis.”