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Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Dog attack victim was due to fly home

The scene in Murupara where a 5-year-old girl was seriously attacked by a dog.
The scene in Murupara where a 5-year-old girl was seriously attacked by a dog.

The Japanese girl attacked by four dogs at a Murupara home was due to fly home with her family to Japan tomorrow.

Pem Bird, principal of Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake o Tawhiuau, told the Rotorua Daily Post the 7-year-old and her parents were in the process of gaining permanent residency and had bought property in the town because they fell in love with "what they saw''.

She was attacked as her family farewelled friends, he said.

"They bought a home here, they liked [Murupara] obviously,'' Mr Bird said.

"She settled in amazingly well that first minute. Language is no barrier, kids connect in other ways like play, singing, doing everything kids do. She was picking up Maori very quickly, it's pretty similar [to Japanese] in terms of pronunciation.''

He said she had only been a student for one month but had made an impact on the school community. Mr Bird said they had expected her to re-enrol at the school for the 2015 year once the family had returned to Murupara to live.

"We get a lot of Japanese people coming through here to fish. Her parents were working, they were entrepreneurial.''

The girl had been playing in the yard of a property owned by friends of the family when she was attacked by four dogs belonging to the property owner yesterday afternoon.

Police have confirmed the four dogs involved in the attack were Staffordshire bull terrier crosses. Earlier reports said the animals were bull mastiff-type dogs.

Mr Bird said the girl and her family had been visiting to say their goodbyes.

"These were family pets under control at their home, They were saying farewell, having something to eat and something has happened.''

She was airlifted to Rotorua Hospital before being transferred to Middlemore Hospital, where she remains in a critical condition today.

The girl suffered life-threatening facial injuries in the attack, and was taken to Murupara Medical Centre.

All four dogs were put down by a vet.

Police say it is too early to say whether the owners will face charges.

A police spokeswoman said enquiries had established that the dogs were registered and micro-chipped family pets, secure on the owners' semi-rural property in Murupara.

"There was no requirement for the dogs to be seized as the owner immediately took steps to have them put to sleep by a vet.

"The circumstances as to what prompted the dogs to attack are still being investigated and it is too early to say whether any charges will be laid.''

Dog attack horror: Call to ban breeds

Whakatane's mayor says some dog breeds should be banned after a 7-year-old girl was mauled in a dog attack in Murupara yesterday.

"I believe there's some dogs out there that have got that have got that fighting technique streak in them and shouldn't be around,'' Tony Bonne told Radio New Zealand this morning.

A law change in 2003 banned imports of several breeds of dog and gave the Government power to ban imports of other breeds in the future.

The four banned breeds were the American pitbull terrier, dogo Argentino, Brazilian fila, and Japanese tosa.

Another breed, the perro de presa canario, was banned by an order in council agreed by Parliament in 2011.

However Mr Bonne said like most communities, his had problems with unregistered dogs. But the dogs in yesterday's attack were registered and microchipped.

"The owner obviously was a responsible dog owner and was devastated. But there are breeds of dogs that are in New Zealand which I personally don't agree with, but the government of the day has allowed them.

"So as long as the dog owners are responsible with them - and this attack happened on the property, so it was not on the streets - really it's one of those very unfortunate incidents.''

Mr Bonne said it was sad the girl's family had only just moved to Murupara before the attack.

"When somebody's just moved to town, it will be absolutely devastating for them, for the family.''

Murupara community board chairman Jacob Te Kurapa told Radio New Zealand the family had moved to Murupara six weeks ago and were looking forward to a new life in New Zealand and the town.

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett said she was considering whether dog control regulations needed to be improved.

"I am keen to have another look at anything we can do to stop horrific attacks like this but it's an incredibly complex area.

"It's not as simple as banning a breed ... but I will be interested in looking at it in more detail and making a call from there.''

She said she would take any recommendations from local authorities on dog controls "very seriously''.

"At the end of the day it is horrific for that wee girl and her family and for the whole community.''


- Additional reporting Rotorua Daily Post

- APNZ

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