Girl savaged by dogs fights for life

A Japanese girl savagely mauled by four dogs had just moved to New Zealand with her parents at the start of the year.

The girl, aged 7, was playing in the yard of a property owned by friends of her family in the Bay of Plenty forestry town of Murupara when she was attacked by four "mastiff-type" dogs belonging to the owner of the property yesterday afternoon, police said.

She sustained life-threatening facial injuries in the attack, and was taken to Murupara Medical Centre, St John Ambulance communications team manager Norm Ngatai said.

She was airlifted to Rotorua Hospital about 1.30pm in critical condition and was being transported last night to Middlemore Hospital in Auckland. BayTrust Rescue Helicopter pilot Art Kowalski said a specialist team had travelled to Rotorua to transport her to Auckland.

The family was new to New Zealand, and the girl did not appear to speak English, he said.

"My understanding is that they have just gained residency and moved here at the beginning of the year.

"Her father came with us and was translating back and forward between her and our paramedic."

The girl's injuries were "extensive", and affected about 90 per cent of her face, he said. She also suffered puncture wounds to both arms, legs and hips.

However, despite her horrific injuries she was conscious on the flight to Rotorua and able to communicate with her father.

Bay of Plenty police communications spokeswoman Kim Perks said police were informed of the attack shortly after 2pm.

All four dogs were put down by a vet, and a police investigation was under way.

Senior Sergeant Brendon Keenan said it was a "very distressing" time for the family.

"We do know that the young girl was at a friend's house . . . and then she has engaged with this dog . . . It looks as though we could have up to four dogs involved here," he told Radio New Zealand.

"The owner of the dog has been very supportive of this very distressful situation . . . the dogs have already been put down with the help of a vet."

No-one else had been in danger, he said.

Murupara Community Board chairman Jacob Te Kurapa said he met the family three weeks ago, giving them a box of throw-outs from the community.

"I've only met them once, a nice, quiet family."

The community board was supporting the family and had them in their thoughts and prayers, Mr Te Kurapa said.

In April 2007, Virginia Ohlson, a 56-year-old mother of one, was fatally injured when two dogs, a pitbull and staffordshire-cross, attacked her as she walked along Pine Drive in Murupara.

She was just 200 metres from her home when the dogs attacked. She suffered bites to her legs and died from trauma and shock on her way to hospital.

Since that incident, walkers in Murupara had developed serious concerns about out-of-control dogs in the area, Mr Te Kurapa said.

"Constituents of mine, who are walkers in the morning and at night, are telling me that they are now having to carry sticks to protect themselves from dogs.

"People have been reporting it to the council but, unfortunately, the downside here is we only have an animal control officer that works three hours a day."

Some walkers were now thinking about attaching knives to the end of sticks to protect themselves.

"I don't encourage people to carry knives strapped to sticks as some were suggesting they would do as a result of this incident.

"I do encourage that the council may step up patrols at the right times and I also go back to the call of asking all dog owners to be more responsible with their pet dogs." 

The Dominion Post