A Rotorua woman who watched in horror as her shitzu was dragged into Utuhina Stream by a pitbull and "thrown around like a football" wants dog owners to be better educated.

Heidi Burgess told the Rotorua Daily Post her walk with her dog Chanel late last month started out like any other.

"We were walking under the bridge near Smallbone Park. We often walk there because there's usually nobody around.

"I let her off her leash for a little run around without seeing the young chap who was walking his unleashed pitbull.


"It all happened so quick. All of a sudden the young chap was yelling for me to grab my dog but it was too late, his pitbull was dragging my little darling into the stream.

"I was watching in horror as it looked like Chanel was about to be mauled - she was being thrown around like a football.

"Luckily the pitbull couldn't really get a grip otherwise she would be a dead duck. I jumped into the stream fully clothed to try retrieve her. I didn't dare look at her injuries."

Ms Burgess said she screamed for the pitbull's owner to help her, but "he just disappeared".

"He was a young chap who was tidily dressed and it was a well looked after dog. I think he just went into panic mode. He said he didn't want his dog put down.

"That's not what I want either, I'm a dog lover so it would be heartbreaking for me to do that, but I also don't want this to happen to anybody else's dog."

The incident was reported to police and dog control the following day, but neither the owner nor the dog had been found.

Ms Burgess said Chanel was lucky to escape with just minor injuries - though the vet bill was $160.

"Chanel has slowly returned to her normal self. It was a traumatic, very frightening experience for her and me. She was a mess the first couple of days - wouldn't leave my side, shaking all the time.

"We don't go under the bridge anymore and it definitely makes me think twice about taking her off her lead.

"Owners need more education. If you have a particular breed of dog, it should be on a short lead and muzzled when out on walks."

Ms Burgess' story comes as Rotorua Lakes Council figures obtained by the Rotorua Daily Post show there were 108 cases of dogs attacking other dogs or animals between January and August this year.

There were also 58 dog on human attacks in the first eight months of this year, already more than the 52 for the whole of 2016.

From 2012 to 2015, the total number of dog attacks in Rotorua was increasing, peaking in 2015 when there were 82 reported dog on human and 156 reported dog on animal attacks.

However, in 2016 there was a dip in the number of reported attacks with 142 attacks on other animals in addition to the 52 on humans.

In a written statement, Rotorua Lakes Council said the number of attacks were "not considered to be too bad" given the number of dogs in Rotorua.

It said the severity of attacks varied, from grazes to major injuries.

The council's animal control unit undertakes about four prosecutions per year following reported dog attacks.

"This is a last resort as it can be costly and time consuming and the level of proof required is very high. Sometimes the council will seek reparation and people can be disqualified from owning a dog in certain circumstances.

"The council prefers education to prosecution."

Owners of dogs that attack people or animals can be fined up to $3000 depending on the offence or severity of the attack.

Good Dog Training Rotorua trainer Raewyn Saville said unneutered and unspayed dogs tended to display more aggressive behaviour.

"Dogs who are overprotective of the space around them should always be on a lead in public places ... All dogs need to know their handler calls the shots."

Safety tips
Ensure you have control of your pet at all times.
If another dog becomes aggressive towards your pet, try and distance your dog from the aggressor but do not run.
If possible get behind a solid object such as a fence, inside your home if you are on your property or calmly make your way to your car if it is nearby.
Report wandering dogs to council immediately.
Where safe to do so, a photograph of the dog, a detailed description of the breed or a known address is useful. This will help animal control staff follow up as appropriate.​
- Rotorua Lakes Council
- Additional reporting by Alice Guy