Warning: This story contains graphic content.
Police said today they are "horrified like everone else" by the death of a miniature horse that was brutally stabbed 41 times near Dunedin this week and are "putting a priority on the investigation".
Ten-year-old Star was attacked near the corner of Brown and Pitt streets in Waitati, Dunedin, around midnight late Sunday evening or early Monday morning, police believe. Despite a five-hour surgery to try and save the animal, one of the stab wounds punctured the horse's bowel and he died overnight.
Police have since spoken to Star's owner and visited the area where the incident occurred.
More than one assailant is believed to be responsible, Otago Equine Hospital veterinarian Peter Gillespie told the Otago Daily Times.
"The attack was initially thought to be caused by another animal but once checked by a vet it was established the wounds were inflicted by a sharp instrument and we changed the course of our inquiry," police told 1 NEWS today in a statement.
"Alongside our investigation we have been supporting the victim and her family and talking with community leaders to keep them informed and updated on progress," the statement continued.
Anyone who was in the area late Sunday and early Monday, or who saw or heard anything unusual, is asked to contact Dunedin Police on (03) 471 4800, or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.