A racehorse has been savaged by a dog in a "prolonged and vicious" attack at a Nelson beach.
Owner-trainer Tom Fox was left shaken by the attack at Rabbit Island, where he had taken his pacer, I Wanna Be Big, to bathe a sore foot.
Mr Fox was in a sulky driving the three-year-old horse on Wednesday when a dog he described as a staffy-pitbull-cross attacked before they got to the water.
He thought the gelding, whose paddock name is The Grin, would be killed and feared for his own safety. The dog's owner stood by while the attack took place and drove away before Mr Fox could talk to him.
The attack has left him shaken.
"I couldn't sleep last night," he said yesterday. "If it had been a child on the beach, the dog would have done the same thing."
Mr Fox saw the dog make a beeline for them before they got to the water's edge. The dog ripped his horse's mouth open and attacked his belly and legs.
"He's got rips and grazes all over him.
"The horse went down on his knees at one stage and I thought he was gone.
"I was lucky I managed to stay in the sulky and the dog did not get him by the throat.
"The horse was rearing and kicking out. It was prolonged and vicious and the noise was frightening."
Mr Fox said the attack ended as quickly as it started.
He described the dog's owner as a Maori man aged in his 30s, and said he was accompanied by a young boy, aged about 5 or 6. They got into an old fawn four-door sedan and drove away.
Mr Fox took The Grin back into the water to bathe his injuries before taking him back to Richmond Racecourse, where a veterinarian stitched up the horse's mouth and bandaged a hole the dog had torn in one of his rear legs.
The gelding, which has been placed at numerous events and won his race in Kaikoura in October, had been due to race in Nelson in a fortnight. "That's doubtful now," Mr Fox said.
Meanwhile, 56 sheep have died after a dog attack on a Mahana farm on Tuesday.
The stock on the Stage Coach Rd property, near Seaton Valley Rd, were either killed by the dogs or had to be put down because of their injuries. One dog had been located and put down.
Dog control officers were still looking for the other animal, which was described as a foxy-cross terrier. The dog's owners were liable for the damage, which the farmer, who did no want to be named, estimated to be in excess of $8000.
Those with any information should contact the Tasman District Council's dog control service.
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