Two 6-week-old puppies died after being starved, neglected and dumped in a cardboard box at the gates of the SPCA in Auckland.
The SPCA has called the act the "ultimate betrayal" and has asked for the public's help to find the "cowardly" owners who could do such a thing right before Christmas.
SPCA Auckland executive director Bob Kerridge said a staff member found the puppies near death in a rough cardboard box covered with a cloth at 7.30am yesterday.
"We have no clues whatsoever where they might have come from," he said.
"All we found was a grotty old box at the front gate covered with a cloth.
"That's all we have to work with at this stage," Mr Kerridge said.
SPCA veterinarians believed the puppies had been starved for up to a week before they were found.
One of the puppies died not long after the box was found and the other had to be put down because it was too ill to be saved.
The SPCA released the photos of the puppies to the Herald in the hope someone would come forward with information about what happened.
"Such a callous, cowardly act just days before Christmas is incomprehensible and is the ultimate betrayal of life," Mr Kerridge said.
The only reason he could come up with for the puppies being dumped was that the owners didn't want the burden of the animals dying on them.
"They just didn't want to bother."
The SPCA was concerned there might be other puppies in the litter that were suffering a similar fate.
"And of course the other thing is that we're very keen to see who would do a thing like this because abandoning animals is a crime under the Animal Welfare Act and people like this should be brought to justice," Mr Kerridge said.
It was not common for animals to be left at the SPCA in such a bad condition, he said.
Usually owners brought their animals in before they got to that state.
The SPCA asks anyone who may have any information concerning the puppies to call its staff anonymously on (09) 256-7300.
WORST ANIMAL ABUSE CASES OF 2011
The SPCA hopes publication of this image will help them trace whoever dumped these 6-week-old puppies at its gates in Auckland. A Te Kuiti man beat a 6-month-old puppy to death with a golf club in a "prolonged and particularly brutal" act of cruelty. He was sentenced to 18 months' jail for wilful ill-treatment of an animal and was also banned from owning another dog for life.
In the Waikato, a 12-week-old kitten was beaten and burned to death in Te Awamutu in front of the owner's daughter and 5-year-old granddaughter. The offender was sentenced to 18 months' jail and banned from owning an animal for 10 years.
A teenager in Kaikoura bludgeoned to death 25 seals, including newborn pups, with a metal pipe as he believed they were pests. Others were found still alive but with horrific injuries.
A Canterbury man assaulted a young puppy, which had broken its legs in an earlier accident, for defecating inside. The injured puppy was left to suffer from severe head trauma without being taken to a veterinarian.
At Gate Pa in Tauranga, a young pitbull cross puppy had its ears severed and was found wandering and distressed. It is now permanently disfigured.
A young man from Rangiora stabbed a schnauzer multiple times in the back with a kitchen knife after having an argument with his girlfriend.