Effects of dog attack still felt

By Shauni James -
1 comment
Rawiri Latu, 8, who was attacked by a dog when he was 18 months old. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rawiri Latu, 8, who was attacked by a dog when he was 18 months old. Photo / Stephen Parker

Rotorua's Karla Latu still screams for her son every time she hears a dog bark - more than six years after he was attacked by a dog.

Dog attacks have been in the news in recent weeks with a 92-year-old attacked by a stray in Northland, a pregnant woman savaged by a Staffordshire-cross in Christchurch and a 7-year-old attacked by a pitbull terrier in Takanini.

Figures provided to the Rotorua Daily Post by Rotorua Lakes Council show there have already been 10 dog attacks reported in Rotorua this year, two by pitbulls.

Council manager compliance solutions Neven Hill said there were 30 dog attacks in 2015 that resulted in puncture marks or bites. Ten of them were by pitbulls, making up 33 per cent of all attacks.

"As a council we have been insisting on neutering pitbulls."

Of the 10 pitbulls involved in attacks last year, nine were both registered and desexed.
Neven Hill

Miss Latu's son Rawiri Latu, who is now 8, was attacked by a friend's family dog when he was 18 months old.

He had been running around the friend's house with another child, and the dog present, all day.

Out of the blue, the dog took "one whole bite" at her son's mouth, she said. It ran away when she yelled at it.

She said her son had not been teasing the dog.

Rawiri needed 124 stitches in total, with 60 inside his mouth, 60 on the outside and four under his chin, Miss Latu said.

He spent 13 days in Middlemore Hospital's Kidz First Children's Hospital, two of them in an induced coma.

Rawiri was the first child to have lip laceration surgery in New Zealand, she said.

"They've done amazing surgery. It's amazing what they can do to help save your kids."

Karla Latu with her son Rawiri Latu, 8, who was attacked by a dog when he was 18 months old. Photo / Stephen Parker
Karla Latu with her son Rawiri Latu, 8, who was attacked by a dog when he was 18 months old. Photo / Stephen Parker


Every six months they go to the Manukau SuperClinic for regular check ups.

Miss Latu said Rawiri would have to wait until he was 14 or 15 to get facial surgery which would tidy up the scars around his mouth.

The dog, a Shar Pei cross, was put down, Miss Latu said.

She said every time she heard a dog bark she would scream out "where's my son".

"It's me who has the biggest fear."

Miss Latu said Rawiri, who attended Whangamarino School, loved animals and they got a dog six years later.

She said they had been lucky Rawiri had not been teased at school about his scarring.

"All I know is at the end of the day my son is alive."

Miss Latu said there needed to be more education and awareness, with children learning how to act around animals.

Rotorua Ultimate Canines dog trainer Chelsea Marriner said using common sense was important when around dogs.

She said people, especially children, should ask before touching someone's dog, even if it was a familiar one.

"You can't be too careful."

She said everyone needed to be more educated, especially the young. "I think any of the dogs that have aggressive genetics or fighting genetics need to be especially monitored."

Dogs in Rotorua:

* Rotorua has 11,496 registered dogs

* 431 (3.7 per cent) are American pitbull or pitbull cross which the Dog Control Act 1996 classifies as "menacing"

* 19 are classified as "dangerous"

Dog attacks in Rotorua:

2016 to date:

* 10 attacks, two by pitbulls

2015:

* 30 attacks, 10 (33 per cent) by pitbulls

* 10 per cent were by Labradors or Labrador crosses, 6 per cent by German Shepherds

- Rotorua Lakes Council

Karla Latu with her son Rawiri Latu, 8, who was attacked by a dog when he was 18 months old. Photo / Stephen Parker
Karla Latu with her son Rawiri Latu, 8, who was attacked by a dog when he was 18 months old. Photo / Stephen Parker

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