'Why would someone do this?'
SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen says the fatal stabbing of a miniature horse is one of worst cases of animal cruelty she has heard of.
Ten-year-old Star died this morning after he was stabbed more than 40 times about midnight on Sunday at Waitati in Otago.
A member of the public made the grisly discovery after following a trail of blood on Monday morning. Star later underwent surgery, but his extensive injuries proved fatal.
Andrea Midgen said she had not heard of such a violent and horrific case during her time with the SPCA.
"It's absolutely inconceivable that someone would commit such a terrible act of violence on an innocent and defenceless animal," Ms Midgen said.
"You can only surmise that there's something going wrong in their world."
Star was on the operating table for about five hours on Monday in a bid to save his life.
It was an awful time for the owner's family, she said.
"They'll be in absolute a grief state ... Star was part of their family.
"To lose their beloved animal they're just going to be distraught and will be wanting answers to questions of why would someone do this?"
Star was discovered by a dog walker in the early hours of Monday near the corner of Brown and Pitt streets in Waitati.
Otago Equine Hospital veterinarian Peter Gillespie got the call about an injured pony about 1.30am and suggested the owners bring Star into the clinic, which was a half an hour's drive away.
The injuries described from the dark paddock sounded like a dog attack, but Mr Gillespie said the horrific extent of the injuries were revealed later that morning.
"There was one right across the base of the neck where it was obviously an attempt to sever the jugular vein, which was really disturbing. That was the biggest wound," Mr Gillespie said.
Some of the wounds were so deep that an index finger could be fully inserted, he said.
Mr Gillespie had seen lots of cases of neglect, but nothing like the intentional harm inflicted on Star.
Dunedin police were investigating the stabbing and encouraged anyone with information can contact them or Crimestoppers.