Pitbull to be destroyed after attack

A pitbull which attacked a 10-year-old boy in Rotorua must be destroyed and its owner punished, a judge has ruled.

Johnny Edwards, 34, appeared in the Rotorua District Court this week after previously pleading guilty to a charge of being the owner of a dog which caused serious injury to a child. He was sentenced to 180 hours' community work - the maximum available - and an order was made for the male American pitbull terrier-cross to be destroyed.

According to the police summary of facts, the attack happened on September 22 last year on Wrigley Rd, Fordlands.

Edwards and his dog were inside a house but when Edwards left the room, a child let the dog out where it roamed uncontrolled on the street.

The dog went on to a property, where a 10-year-old was playing and attacked him, causing several puncture wounds to his left arm and left upper thigh/buttock area. A member of the public pulled the dog off the boy, who was taken to hospital for medical treatment.

Judge Jocelyn Munro said Edwards had attended restorative justice sessions with the victim's family, which had been positive. She noted the family did not want any further penalty imposed on Edwards, other than destruction of the dog.

She said that while the boy had not suffered long-lasting physical damage it would have been a "truly terrifying" experience for him that could have turned out much worse.

The judge said Edwards' lawyer, Rachelle Cavanagh, had submitted not too much blame should be placed on her client because he didn't know the dog had been let outside.

"I do not fully accept that. You have a responsibility to ensure that dog is properly restrained and to simply leave it free in a house where there are children ... is a lack of responsibility on your part."

She told Edwards he could have been imprisoned for failing to keep the dog, which was not classified as dangerous and had not attacked before, secure.

The judge said as Edwards, who has previous criminal convictions, was already subject to 220 hours' community work she was only able to impose 180 more.

Sentencing will take place on April 11 for Rotorua woman Philomena Marcelle Matthews, 37, who has pleaded guilty to the same charge as Edwards. In a separate incident on December 15 last year, also in Fordlands, her pitbull attacked and seriously injured an 18-month-old girl.

- By Katie Holland of the Daily Post

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