A Rotorua family is distraught after their dog was mauled to death by an American pitbull.

Rotorua Lakes Council animal control supervisor Kevin Coutts said one of his staff was called to today's incident in Springfield by police.

He said the owner of the American pitbull terrier had called the police.

"She had gone to an acquaintance's home who wasn't home, so she let the dog off [the lead] to relieve itself.

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"It jumped the fence and killed a small Australian silky terrier."

He said the owner "to her credit" surrendered the pitbull immediately. She was distraught, as were the owners of the dead dog, he said.

The pitbull was taken to a vet and put down straight away.

Mr Coutts said the pitbull's owner was would receive a $300 infringement notice for failing to comply with the menacing dog rules.

He said further investigations would be carried out before deciding if any further action would be taken.