The SPCA is investigating after a dog was dragged at least 12km to its death in Kerikeri in the Far North.
A Kerikeri man who witnessed the "gruesome" scene tried desperately to alert the driver who was oblivious his dog had fallen from the back of the ute while tethered with a long piece of rope.
The resident, who does not want to be named, was driving along State Highway 10 near Sandys Rd on the outskirts of Kerikeri when the ute passed him last Friday around 8pm.
He initially thought it was a blanket that was flapping behind the vehicle, "then I saw with my headlights it was a dog.
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The man followed the vehicle to the Waipapa intersection and along the Waipapa Bypass all the while trying to alert the driver by flashing his lights and sounding the horn.
However, he struggled to keep up as the driver "seemed to be in a rush to get home".
"Every time I could catch up, I could see the thing hanging out the back.
"It definitely wasn't moving, it was dragging along like a wet blanket. It was gruesome."
He gave up the pursuit when they reached the Kerikeri township as he didn't want to confront him and create a scene. "By that stage the dog was dead."
He believes the dog, which looked to be a huntaway, may have been dead when he first spotted it.
"The driver had tied the dog on a 600mm rope on the right corner of the ute rather than the middle where it can't leap off.
"If you're going to have a dog be responsible and tie it up in a sensible spot."
Two other hunting type dogs were also on the back but he couldn't see if they were secured.
He took the car registration and reported the incident to police, while another resident reported it to the SPCA.
An SPCA spokeswoman said the animal welfare charity is investigating and confirmed the dog was deceased.
Under new laws introduced in October 2018, dogs must be secured in a cage or crate or tied up safely when travelling on the back of utes on public roads.
If rope is used to restrain the dog, it must allow the dog to stand and lie down in a natural position and prevent it from getting its legs over the side of the vehicle.
The only exception is farm dogs which can be loose on a vehicle when they are actively working.
The Ministry for Primary Industries released the new Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018, following a two-year review of all animal welfare regulations.
The fine for breaching these rules is $300.
In 2017 a dog was dragged to its death behind a car on State Highway 12 in Waimamaku.
The owners told the SPCA they had tied their dog to the tow-bar to give it some respite from the sun.
However, they forgot they'd tied the dog there and drove off with it still attached to the towbar.
Animal advocate Leonie Exel, from the Bay of Islands Watchdog group, said the driver involved in the recent incident "may have just made a terrible error" and urged people to "hold back on judgment".
"Some people aren't aware of the changes in legislation and what it is they need to do. If your dog is on the back keep a close eye on it - or better still put it in the cab."