Mastiff turns on tot trying to pat it

By Amy McGillivray of the Bay of Plenty Times -
File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A Tauranga preschooler needed plastic surgery after a dog attack that left him with puncture wounds on his head and major damage to his lip.

Charlie Pokai, 4, was visiting a friend's new home in Merivale about noon on Friday with his mother and sister, 8, when he was attacked by the large, tan bull mastiff which lived at the property.

Father Henry Pokai said Charlie was trying to pat the dog when it turned on him: "The dog left a puncture mark in the side of the head. That was probably the first bite because the dog lunged at him and he was falling backwards."

Most of the damage appeared to have been done when the dog took a second bite, severing Charlie's lip halfway around and punching a hole through his face below his nose, Mr Pokai said.

Charlie's mother called an ambulance but they were busy with other calls so she wrapped him in towels, put him in the car and rushed him to Tauranga Hospital.

Mr Pokai was at work when he got the call to say Charlie had been bitten but did not realise the extent of the injuries until he got to hospital.

"It's the most traumatic feeling I've ever had. It makes you plead with the surgeons," he said.

The preschooler's wounds were so bad he was flown to Waikato Hospital by the Trustpower TECT rescue helicopter about 6.30pm on Friday.

He was taken into surgery where plastic surgeons worked to repair his face for about two and a half hours, Mr Pokai said. He was discharged on Sunday.

Mr Pokai's daughter was the only one who saw the attack. She was traumatised by it and would be working with Victim Support, he said.

As for Charlie, he was on the mend and running around again.

"He's a box of birds now. He's playing with the kids and laughing at his scar, scaring the kids with it. He reckons they are his zombie scars," Mr Pokai said. "I consider ourselves very lucky. It could have been a hell of a lot worse."

Tauranga City Council animal services team leader Brent Lincoln said the council was informed of the attack on Saturday and the dog was impounded.

A decision was made yesterday to prosecute the dog's owners under section 58 of the Dog Control Act.

Charges would be laid and the dog would remain in the pound until the outcome of the prosecution.

The judge who hears the case will decide whether the dog is destroyed and what penalty the owners will face. The maximum penalty is a fine of up to $20,000 and up to three years in prison.

Mr Pokai was adamant the dog needed to be put down.

There was no warning that it would happen but anyone with a dog needed to understand what it was capable of and take precautions, he said.

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