The SPCA has rejected calls for extended bans on dangerous dog breeds in the wake of a "nasty" mauling which left a young girl with extensive facial injuries.

It has instead renewed a campaign for a national dog licensing system placing responsibility for stopping attacks on dog owners.

The four-year-old had to undergo facial reconstruction surgery for injuries sustained in the dog attack in Masterton on Saturday.

She was visiting family when the bull mastiff-pitbull cross became aggressive, pinned her to the ground and bit her face.

The attack has seen increased debate about the need for tougher dog control laws.

SPCA executive director Bob Kerridge today said the incident showed the need for a New Zealand-wide dog licensing system.

Agressive pitbulls and pitbull crossbreeds - which posed the worst threat to people of any dog type - were already widespread across the country and difficult to stamp out, he said.

He claimed a licensing system would weed out those who were unfit to own a potentially aggressive dog.

"That is the only real way to solve this problem - is to license owners and to give them the responsibility that goes with owning a dog.

"We led the charge to stop the importation of the pitbull because of the concerns they would be crossbred with other dogs... But there's not a lot we can do about that because it's happened. We wish someone had listened all those years ago."

Animal welfare officers would be able to take dangerous dogs off owners they found without a license under the system, Mr Kerridge said.
It would ensure all dog owners knew the basic principles of dog control and animal welfare, he said.

"It would be extremely useful when you have a neighbour who is concerned about that dog next door. You can look at it and see they don't have a license and take it away. That's owner responsibility."
Masterton District Council dog controllers put down the dog that attacked the four-year-old with a lethal injection this morning, council chief executive Wes ten Hove said.

The dog's owner, a close family member, has been charged under the Dog Control Act with owning a dog which has caused injury. The charge carries a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment, up to a $20,000 fine, or both.

The mastiff owner's husband yesterday said his niece had been near the dog and was told to "stay away because he's a bit stinky".

"Then, out of the blue, he just did it."

The toddler, who was pinned to the ground and bitten multiple times, suffered severe lacerations to both sides of her face and had multiple operations at Hutt Valley Hospital on Saturday night to reconstruct her face.

A hospital spokeswoman said she was now in a "satisfactory" condition.
Mr Hove said it was the worst dog incident that he could recall in 20-odd years in Masterton.

It highlighted a need for discussion around what breeds could be allowed into the country, he said.

"You can have a nice big green tag on your dog, but that doesn't make them any safer.

"We tend to focus on specific animals rather than on what type of breed they are."

"It's a tough situation and there needs to be a community discussion on what type of breeds are acceptable for our country. If we accept aggressive breeds of dogs, then we have to accept a degree of risk that goes with that."

Masterton Mayor Gary Daniell said he was shocked to hear about the attack and welcomed a renewed debate on dog control laws.
"There are obviously breeds which have been banned and that may well have to be extended.

"Personally I'm quite apprehensive about some of these bullterrier-type breeds."

There may be a need for a national edict on the extending of banned breeds, he said.

Meanwhile, a two year old girl is recovering in Whakatane Hospital after being bitten by a pitbull in Kawerau, eastern Bay of Plenty, on Saturday.

Acting Sergeant Ian Dodds of Kawerau police said she received a nasty facial laceration which appeared to be from a single bite.
Police are considering laying charges against the dog's owner, while the fate of the animal is to be decided by the Kawerau District Council.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide has pledged to reform dog control laws before the November election in the wake of the latest attacks.
He said laws were failing to protecting the public.

The architect of current dog control, former local government minister Chris Carter, yesterday said he believed current laws were comprehensive.

His Dog Control Amendment Bill included measures such as microchipping all puppies, banning certain breeds, increasing dog control officers' abilities to enter properties and increasing fines.
Despite the latest attacks, Mr Carter remained confident the law was tough enough.

"I'm really sorry that these attacks occurred... if people can come up with suggestions that can improve what I thought was a very comprehensive package, and you can always make things better, then make those suggestions."

- with NZPA, Wairarapa Times-Age