Dog attack: Girl's medical bills covered by ACC

DONNA-LEE BIDDLE
Last updated 14:14 05/03/2014
MIKE SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

Pem Bird, principal of Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake o Tawhiuau school in Murupara, explains the tragic outcome of the dog mauling.

Sakurako Uehara
SUPPLIED
YOUNG VICTIM: Sakurako Uehara, 7, who was savagely attacked by four dogs in Murupara on Monday afternoon.

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The seven-year-old Japanese girl mauled by three dogs earlier this week will receive full and free medical care under ACC.

It had earlier been feared Sakurako Uehara would not be eligible for free health care. However, ACC spokeswoman Stephanie Melville said ACC would be providing the full range of support available to the Uehara family.

"We are meeting with the family at the earliest opportunity to explain how we can help them and what we can do for Sakurako,'' she said.

This would include the cost of all medical treatment, including necessary surgery and ongoing treatment related to her injuries.

Sakurako's parents have said they will hold a media conference on Friday at Middlemore Hospital, where details of Sakurako's injuries will be outlined, along with the treatment she will need in days, months and years ahead.

Details will also be given of a donation line set up to assist the family.

A Middlemore spokeswoman said today that the hospital had initially understood that ACC cover for Sakurako would only start after six weeks of treatment. With confirmation of immediate ACC cover, all funds raised on her behalf would now go towards supporting the family and for helping with her future needs.

Sakurako was attacked by four Staffordshire bull terrier-cross dogs while visiting a family friend at a Murupara property on Monday afternoon.

She was transferred to Middlemore Hospital where today she was listed as under sedation in intensive care in a critical but stable condition.

It was understood the owner of the dogs was a good friend of the Sakurako's father, Yasuyuki and her mother, Kumiko. He had given the newcomers vegetables grown from his maara kai (garden).

Rua Te Pairi, who worked with the dog owner, said: "People think these were big vicious dogs but they weren't, they were small dogs - family pets.

"They were good owners, they were helping them [the Ueharas] out, giving them kai, and the families became fast friends."

It was believed the dog owner left Murupara for Auckland yesterday. Police said the owner had been co-operating with an investigation into the attack.

The Ueharas enrolled their daughter at Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake o Tawhiuau at the beginning of February for a month and the family was to return to Japan to sort residency requirements. They had planned to return in November.

"They came with the intention of just looking around but they came in and within a half an hour of them being here, they loved it," Pem Bird, the principal of the kura said.

The Waikato Times understands Sakurako's mother had a stint teaching Japanese language at the kura. Staff and pupils at the school held prayers for the family but were still coming to terms with the attack.

"Kids are resilient but they can feel it," Bird said.

Sakurako, described by Bird as an angel, had a week long noho (stay) at Rangitahi marae. The young pupil was far from homesick, she fitted right in, proving language to be no barrier, Bird said.

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"Her parents were thrilled with the way she adjusted here. When we heard this happened, we were just absolutely shocked by that," said Bird.

Murupara people were aware of the negative publicity the attack might generate for their town. Some residents had used social media to speak about the attack.

People said they were upset that some animal owners let dogs roam freely around the community while others said dogs needed to be tied up if children were visiting properties where they were kept.

Bird speaks of the Uehara family as if they were his own whanau. He wants to show the community is behind them, so he has organised an appeal.

"Our primary concern is that she pulls through. She's in a stable but critical condition still," Bird said.

"These dogs belong to a family and I know the family, they are good responsible people. They would be so, so devastated."

Bird said he had no doubt the Uehara family would be supported by the community with offers for donations already coming through.

The Murupara Fire Brigade was organising a local appeal with Tawhiuau School, to raise funds to be used to support the Uehara family.

The first concern for the principal was the health of Sakurako and secondly how the community and others may be affected by the attack.

"Exactly what happened, I don't know, but the repercussions are beyond Murupara," Bird said.

Tom Oldridge had been the town's dog control officer since the 1980s but he retired this week and the position was still vacant.

Murupara early childhood teacher Marie Foster said most dog owners were responsible.

"There are a few that don't care but that's the same in every town."

- Waikato Times

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