Three males are being hunted after a sheep was set alight and had half its mouth blown away with fireworks in what police described as a "cowardly, despicable act".

Acting Senior Sergeant Craig Madden, of Mount Maunganui police, said they were alerted after the trio were seen kicking what a member of the public thought was a person on the base track of Mauao (The Mount) about 10.30pm yesterday.

"When attended by police they discovered it was a sheep and it appeared to have suffered a very violent death," Mr Madden said.

"It appeared that fireworks had been placed in the mouth of the animal, which blew off its lower jaw."

It also had an open stomach wound, and there was evidence attempts had been made to set it on fire.

Police cordoned off the area and used a police dog to try to find the offenders but were not successful.

"This was a cowardly, despicable act and police are seeking any information from the public to identify these culprits."

The attack follows the mauling last week of an elderly dog by two pitbulls.

Lincoln, a 14-year-old ridgeback cross, was attacked by the pit bulls in Whitirea Park at Shelly Bay in Porirua after he was earlier stolen from his Titahi Bay home.

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals animal welfare inspector Ben Lakomy said it appeared Lincoln had been taken to be used as a bait dog.

A witness who rang police said the two pit bulls were let off their chains and set on Lincoln. The dogs ripped into Lincoln, the witness said.

The elderly dog tried to defend itself against one of the dogs but one of the owners tried to break his legs by pulling them apart.

A 25-year-old man is due to appear in Porirua District Court tomorrow in connection with Lincoln's case.

- NZPA