Cat carer volunteers are fuming after a person allegedly laced home-made human food with rat poison and placed it where a colony of community and stray cats live.
Julie from Community Cat Coalition Auckland was visiting the cat colony feeding station in Flatbush on Tuesday morning where she goes to help feed, catch, desex and care for the welfare of homeless cats.
When she had a look down on the grass verge she noticed a container of human food that had been left out overnight.
But when she had a closer look she noticed rat poison had been mixed in with the food, an act she believes has sinister motives behind it.
"A few nights before that I saw some other goop and gunk that looked like it had poison in it. But definitely, the stuff I picked up on Tuesday had rat poison sprinkled through it," she told the Herald.
In photos taken by Julie, small blue pellets can be seen mixed in among rice and chicken, with the liquid at the bottom turning blue.
She told the Herald the thought of someone wanting to harm a cat is unfathomable.
"Why would anyone be so horrid and vile about trying to cause a really slow agonising death to any animal.
"It sickens me because of all the work and effort we put into trapping, desexing and stopping the breeding, and the care we give these vulnerable cats who need homes.
"There are hundreds of cats. We are swamped. To see this behaviour going on, it's sickening. It's somebody local. They don't understand we put a lot of effort into cleaning the area up. We can't euthanise the cats as they are healthy."
Cat Coalition is a non-profit volunteer network of cat carers that provide valuable service to the stray cats of Auckland.
Julie and her colleagues help take care of dumped, feral and abused cats and kittens, providing food, desexing, and general health care for cats in need.
The Community Cat Coalition is now recognised as the pre-eminent cat caring collective in Auckland, and have been caring for the Flatbush community cats for a number of years.
Julie says she's worried the hard work Cat Coalition has put into the cats could be undone by this rat-poison scare.
She is also fearful one of the cats tucked into the laced meal.
"This person is putting it out in the mornings. We've been trapping there and it looks like it's been sitting there a while.
"One of the cats has nibbled on the rice because I went to the water where they drink from and there were rice particles in the water.
"There's still one kitten we're trying to trap there. There's a mum we had to put back there as she's lactating so she had babies around. It's very concerning.
"There's a lot of plastic containers with food littered around. The amount that they are putting in may not be enough to kill but the cats could fall sick. But this time there was a lot of rat poison."
The discovery has outraged the East Auckland community who keep an eye out for the cats, with a number of people labelling the incident as "disgusting" and "vile".
The container has since been removed.
In a statement to the Herald the SPCA said they were aware of the incident and say it does appear to look like rat bait had been placed in the food.
Lori Davis, Team Leader Inspectorate for Auckland says rat poison could seriously harm cats and in some cases could kill them.
"If left untreated, ingestion of rodenticides can lead to internal bleeding, liver failure, seizures, respiratory distress, heart attack, coma, and, eventually, death.
"Rat poison is not only a welfare concern for the animals which are the intended targets but it can also be ingested by non-target animals including companion animals, birds or even children.
"SPCA opposes the current use of poisons to kill animals because of the level of pain and distress caused. SPCA acknowledges that it is sometimes necessary to manage populations of animals for a variety of reasons, including protection of biodiversity.
"In these instances, management activities must only use methods that are target-specific, effective, and minimise negative impacts on animal welfare."
Julie says Cat Coalition works closely with neighbours in a bid to keep the cats safe, with the volunteers providing locals with cat biscuits to help keep the strays healthy.
She is now organising fliers in the community in both English and Chinese languages in a bid to warn locals against placing poison and unsuitable food down for the cats.
Lonely Miaow, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the rescue and care of stray and abandoned cats, also helps with the Flatbush strays and contacted the SPCA over the incident.
SPCA Scientific Officer Dr Alison Vaughan warns people could be prosecuted if they are caught wilfully ill-treating an animal, such as putting down poison.
"It is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act to wilfully ill-treat an animal and ill-treat an animal which causes unnecessary pain and distress, or causes an animal to die.
"The problem is proving the elements of these offences. Without evidence our hands are tied."
Those found guilty of wilfully ill-treating an animal can face imprisonment of up to five years and or a fine of up to $100,000.
Cat Coalition relies on donations and goodwill to help care for community and stray cats around Auckland.
If you wish to donate to their cause, you can do so here.