Woman jailed over pitbull attack on toddler

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File Photo / Thinkstock
File Photo / Thinkstock

A Rotorua woman has been sentenced to four months' jail after her pitbull attacked a toddler - "degloving'' the child's forehead.

Philomena Marcelle Matthews, 37, appeared for sentencing before Judge James Weir in the Rotorua District Court this morning.

She had previously pleaded guilty to being the owner of a pitbull that attacked a toddler causing serious injuries.

On December 15 last year at a house in Ruth St, Fordlands, the visiting 18-month-old was bitten three times by the tied-up pitbull - once in the forehead which "de-gloved'' her skin, requiring 20 stitches. She also suffered puncture wounds on her hand and chest.

Judge Weir also ordered for the dog to be destroyed and Matthews was disqualified from owning a dog for the next three years.

According to the police summary of facts, Matthews knew the dog was aggressive and children at the property knew to stay away from him.

The dog was chained to a disused vehicle at the side of the property and a female pitbull was also at the property.

All the children at the address knew about the male dog and had been told to stay away from it because of its aggressive nature, the summary said.

While chained up, the dog was easily accessible from the side of the house and the only fencing was between the neighbouring property.

The toddler walked out the door to where the dogs were and was set upon by the male pitbull.

The dog was seized by Rotorua District Council's animal control unit after the attack and had been kept in the pound until a decision was made today about whether it should be destroyed.

Judge Weir said Matthews expressed regret but showed "limited insight'' into her responsibilities as a dog owner.

The injuries the toddler suffered were severe and would be with her for some time.

Judge Weir said he wanted the sentence to act as a deterrent for other owners of pitbulls and other breeds which were deemed as menacing dogs.

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