Napier residents want action as a pair of pitbulls are believed to be roaming Bluff Hill, causing the "death, disappearance, and mauling of family pets".

Last weekend Bluff Hill residents Robin Heath and Murray Tonks woke to find their two much-loved pet sheep, Arapawa and Charlotte, had been fatally attacked.

One had its "throat ripped open", and the other died of its injuries later that day.

Despite witnesses who saw a pair of pitbull dogs that morning, which were known for roaming the area and hurting animals, there is little the Napier City Council's animal control department can do unless the dogs are caught in the act.


The sheep had lived in the couple's backyard for more than five years, had been hand fed, and were old friends.

"They're now buried side-by-side. We're grieving for them, for us, and the pointless suffering they went through," Mrs Heath said in a statement to Hawke's Bay Today.

A Napier City Council spokeswoman said it was difficult for animal control to take action unless there had been a witness to an alleged attack.

She said last week, animal control had visited the owners of the dogs in question. They were fined $300, and told the dogs had to be secured on the property.

One dog was classified as menacing before the attack, and the other was given the classification. This meant they had to be muzzled at all times in a public place, and neutered.

Ms Heath said she understood animal control had done all they could without "sufficient proof", but the couple said they wanted the dogs' owners to take responsibility for what had happened, and surrender the dogs to council.

"If they were my dogs I would seriously consider having them put down because of the danger they pose to pets, sheep and possibly who knows what else in the community. We don't feel safe," she said.

"I don't want our neighbourhood to have to worry about the next time [the dogs are] going to escape from the property and go hunting for pets around town," Mr Tonks said.

The law should change so animal control could look at circumstantial evidence, Mr Tonks said. "The circumstantial evidence in this case is so incredibly overwhelming," he said.

"The dogs could be found and there's a trail of dead animals left behind them, but if no one actually saw it ... council are powerless to take the dogs."

Residents believe the attack is not an isolated incident, with others saying the dogs frequently roam the neighbourhood.

One resident, identified as Greg, said his cat had been attacked by the same dogs in February, after which it spent six weeks in a vet clinic and lost a leg.

"They're big, strong dogs, if they want to get out, they'll get out," Greg said. "The law's certainly not on our side, we have to prove it was the dogs that did the damage."

Although Barry Richardson's two cats had not been harmed by the dogs, they had been chased, and the dogs had tried to get into his house.

"The fact they're able to roam free, that's the most concerning thing," he said. "If they can kill sheep, they can certainly kill cats and small animals."

Mr Richardson and other residents also felt concerned running, or walking their dogs through Sturm's Gully as they had been "alarmed by the aggressive behaviour of the dogs".