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A pit bull terrier-cross is on death row after partially scalping a woman in Palmerston North.

Police said the 22-year-old woman - the dog's co-owner - was savaged at about midnight on Saturday, receiving severe lacerations to her head and legs.

Police and animal control were called to the Exeter Cres address and the offending dog was removed , along with a second dog, neither of which were registered, the Manawatu Standard reported.

Three children who were sleeping in the home were taken to safety as the dog was removed.

Wayne Jameson, from the Palmerston North City Council, said while pit bulls could seem placid, it took little for them to change their attitude.

"These dogs are dangerous," Mr Jameson said.

"They are dogs that have been bred through the ages as fighting dogs."

It was not known why the dog attacked the woman.

The dog was likely to be destroyed.