A guideline on how to identify signs of a "menacing dog" have been released by Auckland Council, following an amnesty for dog owners with unregistered pooches.
Clearing the common misconception about pit bulls, it says the dog is not a breed but a type - just like a hound, shepherd or retriever.
The Dog Control Act (1996) automatically classifies four breeds - Brazilian Fila, Dogo Argentino, Japanese Tosa and Perro de Presa Canario - and one type - American Pit Bull Terrier - as menacing dogs, no matter how they behave individually.
Some of the things to look out for in menacing dogs such as the pit bull include an intense dog focus - a product of their fighting ancestry, Auckland Council said. Pit bulls are known to not shy away from a challenge from other assertive dogs.
More symptoms include high play drive - pit bull pups like rough play which can ramp up very quickly, making them hard to calm down.
Excitability - chattering teeth and high screaming type noises may show a pit bull is happy, excited, or anticipating, or may mean they are scared, anxious or nervous and high prey drive.
Owners of menacing dogs which are not registered for 2015/16 and who come forward to register their animal for the 2016/2017 year can do so for free. The $300 fine for failing to register a dog will also be waived.
On top of registration the council will desex, microchip and provide muzzles for $25.
This guideline comes after a spate of dog attacks in recent months including the mauling of a 7-year-old boy, Darnell, in Takanini this month.
Dog attacks in NZ
• 99,000 dog bites in NZ since 2004.
• More than 5800 required hospitalisation.
• Nearly two-thirds occurred at private residences.
• Children under 9, Maori and those in low socio-economic areas are at greatest risk.
• Most children received facial injuries.
Source: The Burden of Dogbite Injuries in New Zealand: 2004-2014
Additional reporting: NZME