he man allegedly used sparrows and caged birds to lure the cats, both stray and domestic, into tiny cages in the city of Jiujiang in China, the Washington Post reported.

Police found the cats, some that were dying, crowded in cages in the sweltering heat, located in a small truck and a hut near the highway.

A police officer told local news outlets that the man sold the cats for 30 yuan ($4.40) apiece.

Police arrested the man, who is identified only as Sun, Sunday after another man filed a complaint with police about multiple pets being stolen from him.

Police said they would release all 500 cats if no owners collected them.

Even though it is legal to eat cats and dogs in China, the reports sparked debate on Chinese social media outlets about whether this man did anything wrong. According to the Post, most people seemed appalled by the man allegedly stealing pets from their owners more than eating the animals.

The practice of consuming dogs seems to be waning in China, even though it is legal.

According to Humane Society International (HSI), a prominent festival where dog meat is consumed called the Yulin festival banned sales of dog meat after negative publicity and outcry from animal rights activists. Authorities, however, say there is not a ban in place.

A survey conducted by researchers from the local government and Chinese charities found that 59 percent of Yulin residents rarely consume dog meat and 13 percent of them do not eat it at all.

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