A woman whose chihuahua was mauled at Taipa last week is calling on the owner of two off-leash dogs to take responsibility for the attack.

Almost as shocking as the attack itself was the fact that the young man with the dogs feigned sympathy, then appeared to have left a fake name and address.

Mavis Downing, who works at Northland College, in Kaikohe, said she was sitting on the beach at Taipa Point with her husband and 13-year-old chihuahua Jessy on Saturday afternoon when they saw a young man running with a pair of staffordshire bull terriers.

"My husband said, 'Pick up Jessy, quick!' but it was too late. They came straight for him. If I hadn't had him on a leash and pulled him back the dog would've bitten right into his stomach," she said.

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One of the staffies did, however, manage to seize Jessy and tear a chunk out of one leg, which it was initially thought the leg would have to be amputated.

Mrs Downing said the young man pulled off the attacking dog and held the other one at bay. He was sympathetic, and tried to comfort Jessy, while a nurse who had heard the commotion ran to the nearby yacht club for bandages.

She asked for the youth's name and contact details, which he gave, but when she tried to contact him later she discovered neither the phone number nor the address existed.

Jessy was treated at Kerikeri Vets has now gone home, with his left front leg likely to be strapped up for the next six weeks.

Mrs Downing said it was lucky it wasn't a child that was attacked, adding that she wanted the dogs' owner to take responsibility, contact the Far North District Council's dog rangers and foot the bill for Jessy's treatment, which was likely to run to hundreds of dollars. She also wanted to warn others that the dogs were likely still on the loose in the Taipa area.

Jessy is well known at Northland College, where he sits under Mrs Downing's desk in the student centre.

"There were lots of long faces when I told the students what had happened," she said.

■ The youth with the dogs is described as about 16-18 years old, thin but sporty, with straight black hair. He was wearing jeans and a blue T-shirt. The dogs are thought to be staffordshire bull terriers, one black and the other ginger. One answers to the name Mama.

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Anyone who knows who he is, or who the dogs belong to, is asked to call the Far North District Council on 0800 920-029 and ask for animal control.