Four men were arrested this morning after 11 sheep were discovered hog tied in their car on the outskirts of Hastings.
Police said they were "appalled" to find the animals being transported in the small four-door hatchback which was pulled over about 1am during a regular patrol.
Constable Darren Cooper said it was only luck that none of the animals had died. All the sheep had since been returned to their owners.
The men were charged with theft and ill treatment of animals and would appear in Hastings District Court this week.
In August 2010 two Hastings men were jailed after police discovered 14 sheep forced into their Mazda 626 in Flaxmere. In that case two of the sheep suffocated and died. A third man involved was sentenced to home detention.
The three had at various times scouted likely mobs of sheep, caught them, hog-tied them, ''stacked and crammed'' them into vehicles, then killed and cut them up either for their own consumption or for sale.
Ill treatment of animals carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a $25,000 fine.