The man who stabbed a miniature horse 41 times has been jailed for 2-1/2 years.

Reginald Robert Ozanne pleaded guilty to a charge of wilfully ill-treating an animal when he appeared before the Dunedin District Court in March.

Months before being charged, however, the defendant's Waitati home was raided by police and he forcefully denied being responsible for the frenzied attack on Star that sent shockwaves through the tranquil coastal community.

Judge Michael Crosbie said Ozanne's conduct following the killing "could be viewed as reprehensible".

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"You front-footed your innocence through the media and you deflected the blame in the direction of others which, in a small community, lands somewhere," he said.

About 20 protesters gathered outside Dunedin District Court ahead of the sentencing. Photo / Otago Daily Times
About 20 protesters gathered outside Dunedin District Court ahead of the sentencing. Photo / Otago Daily Times

"The offence was cruel if not barbaric, seen in the number of wounds inflicted on this harmless family pet."

The animal's owner Mandy Mayhem-Bullock said the 4-1/2 months waiting for the arrest was the hardest part.

In a statement read in court, she said the defendant had come to her home uninvited shortly after the vicious slaying to stress his innocence.

Ozanne even called a public meeting in the local library in a bid to clear his name, she said.

Mayhem-Bullock said she was plagued by what she might have done differently.

"Somehow I placed [Star] in the path of a monster," she said.

"I replayed that gruesome scene in my head ... a dark figure out there so close to our houses. A crazy evil act that only our big horses were witness to."

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Sadly, she told the court, the Waitati community had been forever tainted by bloodshed.

"This is not the sleepy seaside settlement we all feel good about. A horrible, unimaginable brutal crime affected everyone in the village, and the nation, and the globe. This tragedy belongs to all of us," Mayhem-Bullock said.

In the weeks following, her son slept with a baseball bat beside his bed.

According to court documents, on the night of February 17 last year, Ozanne entered a paddock by Pitt St where Star was tethered for the night, sometime after 9.30pm.

He was armed with a ''sharp object'' and inflicted 41 stab wounds to the animal, particularly focused on its back, neck and throat.

During the attack, Star's tether was cut and he was found in the early hours of the following morning by a dog walker who alerted authorities.

The horse was taken to Invermay for emergency treatment but succumbed to the extensive wounds a couple of days later.

Defence counsel Deborah Henderson said her client had consumed half a bottle of home-brewed whiskey on the night in question, along with prescription painkillers.

The remainder of the night was a blank, she said.

Ozanne, Henderson said, had initially pleaded guilty so he could see all the evidence against him.

He now accepted he was the killer.

"He's horrified and ashamed he's done this," the lawyer said.

Ozanne was motivated to address his drug problems and wrote a letter to Star's owners stressing his remorse.

"I doubt I'll ever be able to fully understand how this whole thing has and continues to affect you," he wrote.

Reports outlined Ozanne's long-standing substance abuse issues and difficult childhood.

Judge Crosbie said such entrenched issues meant the man's prospects of imminent rehabilitation were not strong.

Earlier about 20 protesters are outside Dunedin District Court this afternoon ahead of Reginald Robert Ozanne being sentenced for the brutal slaying of a miniature horse.

Otago Equine Hospital practise manager Carmen Greimer, who was working at the vet hospital at Invermay when Star was brought in with his wounds, said the event was "traumatic".

She had followed the case and as a mother and a horse owner was hoping for a maximum sentence of five years prison for the charge

"To think there could be someone like this in our society is exceptionally scary."

Chester Dextar, a friend and supporter of Star's owner Mandy Mayhem-Bullock who drove from Christchurch to be outside court, said he was there to help make sure nobody would forget what happened to what was a beautiful horse.

He felt New Zealand was "absolutely disgusted" by the crime and the 20 people who were outside the court were "just a fraction of the people who loved and cared for that pony".

Despite a previous order to keep the man's identity under wraps, which was lifted when he pleaded guilty in March, Ozanne was been widely known by the community after he spoke to the Otago Daily Times before he was charged.

Police today thanked the community for their help throughout the investigation.

"Star was loved by it's owners and the Waitati community," they said in a statement.

"The injury and death of Star was a deplorable act no animal should have to endure."

"A number of staff from the Dunedin Criminal Investigation Branch were involved in the investigation and we'd like to acknowledge the high-calibre work of the skilled investigation team involved in this case."

"We recognise the distress caused to pet owners when incidents like this happen, and would encourage anyone who experiences an incident of this nature to report it so appropriate action can be taken."