A pair of pet lambs have been mutilated - one so badly it had to be put down - in what appears to have been an attack by a drunken party-goer.
The attack, which happened sometime on Thursday night at a property in Matamata, has sickened police and traumatised two children who were planning to enter the lambs in their school's agricultural day.
On the night of the attack, Jamie and Karen Nicholls had noticed the lambs were more unsettled than usual, because of a party happening next door.
"We really didn't think anything of it," Mrs Nicholls said.
It wasn't until the morning, when the children went out to feed Raspberry and Chocky that they realised something was wrong.
"Our kids came running in saying Raspberry had blood all over him," she said.
"We thought a dog might have got into their enclosure, but the vet confirmed the lambs had been attacked by a person."
Raspberry had been stabbed half a dozen times. His right thigh bone was broken and the skin around his mouth had been ripped from the bone.
He was so severely injured, he had to be put down.
The other lamb, Chocky, had his throat cut, but was able to be stitched up by the vet.
Matamata Veterinary Services veterinarian Chris Hutchings, tended to the lambs and said it was obvious that the injuries sustained were not from a dog attack.
"Dogs tend to tear and rip. It was very clear that the lambs were stabbed and cut with a sharp object," he said.
He said he had never seen such cruelty inflicted on an animal in his 30-year career.
"I've seen a few dog attacks in my time, but nothing like this. To think that a person is responsible is concerning," he said.
"This is a horrendous and sad act. They were kids' pets."
Sergeant Graham McGurk of the Matamata police said he was appalled.
"This is callous and disgusting and the culprits need to be caught. This sort of behaviour starts with harming animals, but can lead to other dangerous behavioural patterns."
McGurk said they were following a line of inquiry and urged anyone with information to contact the Matamata police on (07) 888 7117 or anonymously to the Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111.
It's not unusual to see lambs running around in yards in a rural town like Matamata and Nicholls said she wants to see it stay that way.
"This was a cruel and random attack. It's not what we're about in the Matamata community," she said.
"Our kids were so upset. We've always taught them to be kind to animals.
"It makes me worry about what the person responsible for doing this might go on to do next."
Having moved to Matamata from Auckland five years ago, Nicholls and her husband decided to move their young family to Matamata because of the lifestyle.
"It doesn't change how we feel about living in Matamata."
- © Fairfax NZ News