A Waikato mother thinks her family dog may been captured and exposed to cruelty before escaping its captors on Tuesday.
The Matamata woman, who preferred not to be named due to safety concerns, said her four-year-old dog Rock had briefly left her property for "15-20 minutes max" on Tuesday while she was minding her two young children.
Living just out of town, Rock knows the neighbours on one side well and they often take him for walks, the woman said, so Rock would have felt safe enough leaving the property.
After realising he had jumped the fence, she went looking for him and called for about 10 minutes, but he wouldn't come.
Soon afterwards, she found Rock hiding in her shed with his mouth taped up so tightly that it was difficult to get scissors underneath the tape, she said.
A rope had been tied around his neck in a slip-knot noose/lasso, which was broken off at the other end, leading the woman to believe that he may have escaped by breaking it.
Rock had dog drool and ruffled fur on his back, which she thought might indicate he had been tied up in an instance of "dog-baiting" - where a captive domestic dog is offered to a more aggressive dog to teach it to be violent.
Rock had also lost three of his teeth during the incident, and he was bleeding from the mouth.
"It was just really upsetting that my youngest daughter had to see that," the woman said.
"It was really scary - wherever he was, it looks like he's been able to snap the rope and escape.
"Did they intend to let him go? What did they have planned? That's what terrifies us."
After posting a warning online, the woman said she was messaged by someone who had a similar thing happen to their own dog in nearby Putaruru.
The woman reported the incident to police, and also noticed a person in a car waiting at an intersection watching her walk Rock yesterday, who drove away when she took out her phone to take a photo.
The incident has left her scared, she said, and she has now taken to locking her doors carefully, as well as her dog's kennel.
"If he was doing anything wrong I'm happy to apologise for whatever he did, but because of his nature I don't think he would have," the woman said.
"He's very quiet - he doesn't bark unless people come to the property ... He doesn't bark at night, he doesn't bark during the day - he's a quiet, happy dog."
A spokesperson for the SPCA confirmed that an investigation has been launched.