Police investigating the mauling of a Japanese girl by four dogs say it is too early to know whether charges will be laid.
The girl, 7 remained in a critical condition this morning, a hospital spokeswoman said.
She was playing in the yard of a property in the Bay of Plenty forestry town of Murupara owned by friends of the family when she was attacked by four dogs belonging to the owner of the property, police said yesterday.
Police today confirmed the dogs were Staffordshire bull terrier crosses.
She suffered 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 a critical condition and was taken to Middlemore Hospital in Auckland last night. BayTrust Rescue Helicopter pilot Art Kowalski said a specialist team had travelled to Rotorua to transport her to Auckland.
The dogs were registered and micro-chipped family pets, police said. They were secure on the owners' semi-rural property and there were adults on the property at the time of the attack.
While there was no legal requirement for the dogs to be seized after the attack, police said the owner immediately took steps to have them put down by a vet.
The girl had just moved to New Zealand from Japan with her parents at the start of the year, and she did not appear to speak English, Kowalski 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.
Bay of Plenty police communications spokeswoman Kim Perks said police were informed of the attack after 2pm. All four dogs were put down by a vet, and a police investigation was under way.
Senior Sergeant Brendon Keenan said the owner of the dogs had been "very supportive of this very distressful situation."
No-one else had been in danger, he said. The girl had been a pupil at a Murupara school for the last month. Pem Bird, principal of Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake o Tawhiuau, said she spoke no English but had settled well at the school.
Her parents planned to get residency and move permanently to Murupara. They had to return to Japan to sort out their residency.
Murupara is ready to support the family, two of its community leaders say.
The family had only been in the Bay of Plenty town for six weeks, community board chairperson Jacob Te Kurapa said.
"What matters most ... is for the speedy recovery of the girl. The community will rally behind and support them," Mr Te Kurapa said.
This could include seeking donations for medical treatment, he said.
Following the attack Te Kurapa had received a number of complaints about roaming dogs in Murupara, and he said it had opened a wound as people thought back to when dogs in the street attacked local woman Virginia Ohlson in 2007.
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 the town.
Feedback from the calls suggested people wanted better dog control laws.Te Kurapa said people wanted justice and vengeance and they were worried the latest attack was similar to the one in 2007.
Whakatane district councillor for the Galatea-Murupara Ward, Alison Silcock, said she understood the dogs were microchipped and registered, and the owners were responsible.
However, she said the attack was "horrifying" for the local community.
"It's really a great concern to us as a community that this poor child has fatal injuries, or any injuries from a dog for that matter," Silcock said.
Fairfax Media approached the house where it was believed the dog attack took place but was told by a person there to leave the property.
- Waikato Times