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Warning: This story contains a distressing image of an injured animal.
The owners of a bull that was fatally wounded by arrows fired from a crossbow are devastated the perpetrators have escaped conviction.
Two men, who were 18 and 22, eventually pleaded guilty to ill treating the bull and a steer in the early morning attack in August 2021.
They were discharged without conviction on Thursday in the Porirua District Court.
Donald Love said he and his partner, Heather Phillips, were disappointed the offenders had "got away with a slap on the wrist".
"It's been two years and multiple court hearings, and it's left us wondering what was the point, really. It's still pretty raw for both of us."
After finding a fence cut, Love located the bull, Ferdinand, at the back of the paddock "in a pitiful but alert state" with arrows protruding from his neck and stomach and a deep wound on his shoulder.
Discovering injuries on the steer the next day required another vet visit and added to their trauma, he said.
The couple pieced together the sequence of events from security camera footage and the culprits were arrested in September that year.
Both maintained "not guilty" pleas until May 2022, when the younger offender admitted his part.
The older man eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in October.
In his victim impact statement, Love said the protracted legal process had left them both with "a sense of betrayal".
Despite noting the public would consider the offending “repugnant”, Judge Bruce Davidson allowed the men to escape conviction or publication of their names, saying they were young and immature and had since made progress in improving their lives. Publication and convictions could interfere with them continuing in the businesses they had each set up.
Animal rights organisation SAFE said the offenders should have been convicted.
Its spokesperson Anna de Roo said it was "a deliberate, depraved attack on an animal".
"Aotearoa talks a big game about its animal welfare standards. But this case just shows how little regard the justice system has for animals and their well-being."
Fewer than one percent of animal welfare complaints each year led to prosecution, she said.
"Even when perpetrators are prosecuted, the penalties are often disturbingly light."
Cases like this showed why a commissioner for animals was "urgently needed", in her view.