Animal cruelty is not only abhorrent, it is a known path to violence against humans in later life. But with chilling cases of animal abuse, torture and gruesome killings making regular headlines, what can be done to curb the abuse?
It is often said that a dog is man's best friend.
However with over 6500 animal abuse complaints involving dogs alone last year, statistics argue otherwise.
A new Animal Welfare Strategy and Amendment Bill has been announced as the Government attempts to crackdown on perpetrators of animal abuse. Yet horrific cases of neglect and ill-treatment continue to come to light, often with little consequences for those responsible.
Just last month, six Northland families called for action after their beloved pet cats were callously shot with slug guns. Dunedin pet owners have been warned to keep their pets indoors after dead cats were found hanging from trees, strung up with wire.
And though nearly 14,000 complaints of animal abuse were reported to the SPCA last year - an increase of 751 from 2011 - a mere 44 cases made it to a courtroom.
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) national president Bob Kerridge says animal abuse cases have been growing in number due to rising public consciousness of animal welfare and an increase in companion animals.
"It's not what I would term an epidemic. I think it's just a natural rise in the number of animals."
According to Ministry for Primary Industries statistics, 68 per cent of New Zealand households have at least one pet.
Mr Kerridge says people are now more likely to "dob in" anyone neglecting or mistreating an animal. But without the public tip-offs, many animal cruelty cases will never be uncovered.
Animal welfare inspectors deal with abuse situations from the disturbing to the "bizarre".
"We have, every year, at least a dozen cases which we look at and say, 'My God, how could they do that'?"
From mutilation, to beating animals to "within an inch of their lives", the SPCA's annual 'list of shame' highlights the worst of human offending against defenceless creatures. It makes for grim reading.
Two main forms of animal cruelty exist, Mr Kerridge says: neglect, and callous, cowardly attacks on animals.
Neglect makes up 90 to 95 per cent of all cruelty cases, and includes leaving animals chained outside without food, water or shelter, or injuries that are never attended to.
"We've had a number of situations where the cruelty has been quite intense."
A North Canterbury forest lifestyle block owner is currently facing animal welfare charges after beating four pigs with an iron bar when they wouldn't get into a trailer.
Clayton Dovey is also charged with "engaging in behaviour that amounted to psychological abuse" of a person subject to a protection order by bludgeoning to death 13 chickens.
The SPCA does not take people to court lightly, choosing education over prosecution.
The organisation took 44 prosecutions against alleged perpetrators of abuse last year, seven more than in 2011.
"Quite often it's just either genuine lack of knowledge, or just sheer laziness."
Meanwhile, the intentional physical attacks often involve twisted individuals carrying out what are sometimes unbelievable acts of violence against another living creature.
Just last month, six families contacted the Northern Advocate after their cats were maimed or killed by slug guns during a two-week spate.
Seagulls, doves and other birds were also shot. The local SPCA blamed teenagers and urged their parents to step forward.
Cat owners in South Dunedin are being warned to keep their pets indoors as police investigate an alleged feline serial killer in the suburb. Six cats were found dead last month - four hanging from trees.
By the numbers
68 per cent per cent of New Zealand households have at least one pet.
13,823 animal welfare complaints received in 2012, 44 prosecutions taken.
13,072 complaints received in 2011, 37 prosecutions taken.
59,174 animals sheltered in 2012, 25,541 re-homed.
63,599 animals sheltered in 2011, 26,355 re-homed.