Following the uncovering of a horse in Horowhenua that had been starved to death, the SPCA is urging animal owners struggling to cope to seek help.
As living costs in New Zealand spiral up amid reports of families living in cars and the rising homeless population, little attention is being paid to the effect on animals.
The Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) says cases of neglect are on the rise, despite being seemingly easy to avoid.
"The SPCA is seeing far too many of these cases," says chief executive Ric Odom.
"If you own an animal, you have complete responsibility for its care. That means everything; shelter, food, veterinary treatment, the lot. We know that from time to time, for a variety of reasons, things become difficult.
"My message to everybody who owns an animal and finds themselves in difficult circumstances is: call out for help. Use social media, use your friends, call the SPCA. If you've got a real issue and you can no longer care for it, please do not simply ignore the animal and let it suffer. Call for help and I'm sure somebody will help."
Te Ara Smiler, 31, pleaded guilty to ill treatment of an animal after the SPCA found a horse in her care so poorly fed it was unable to stand and had to be euthanised.
She was disqualified from owning a horse for five years, given 120 hours' community service, and ordered to pay nearly $500 in veterinarian expenses as punishment.
"In this particular case, acting on information received, an inspector visited a property where they found a horse that was severely emaciated. It was in a paddock that had no grass, it was all mud - no feed there at all, water that was not drinkable and no shelter," says Mr Odom.
"The inspector called a vet and the decision was made to put the animal down because it was so far gone. But disturbingly, when they went onto the property they found what looked like the remains of another horse that had been burnt."
Mr Odom says the SPCA is happy with the sentence imposed on Smiler, but wishes she'd reached out for help instead of neglecting the animal.
"The woman pleaded guilty very early and had some personal circumstances that meant that she wasn't able to pay hefty fines. So we're satisfied, we always like to see a strong message sent by the courts," says Mr Odom.
"This was just a dreadful, dreadful thing that need not have happened. What needed to happen was for the owner to put out a call for help, and somebody would've helped. Nobody likes to see animals suffer like this."