A holiday maker at Pukehina Beach has described how a pit bull tossed a healthy seal pup around like a rag doll before savaging it to death at the weekend.
A woman has been charged in connection with the incident at the popular beach resort, while animal service staff are working with police to have the dog seized.
This seal pup was attacked by a dog at Pukehina Beach in the weekend. Supplied photos.
Holiday maker Victoria Herrick, who was at the beach with her partner and two-year-old child, had been watching the seal pup frolicking in the waves and sunbathing on the beach on Sunday morning.
She was inside the bach the gfamily had rented with her child when she heard a commotion on the beach.
“It was my partner yelling at a brindle pit bull terrier to release the seal pup. The dog had a grip on its head and was just tossing it about.”
When the dog released the seal Victoria chased it up the beach access.
“I needed to know where the dog lived, that it was chained up and secure. Because I had a child who wanted to play on the beach but that wasn't going to happen with that dog loose.”
Then as Victoria followed the dog, she met its owner.
“I told him it had just attacked a seal pup and so he started beating the dog, putting the boot it.”
Victoria says she told the dog owner he didn't need to beat the dog, he needed to control it.
“He said this is the way he controlled the dog.”
That's when a woman wielding a long screwdriver ran up the beach towards Victoria.
“She said do you want some of this and she was waving the screwdriver at me.”
Victoria says she explained she didn't want trouble, she just needed to know the dog was secure. She says that's when the woman flailed the screwdriver at her and tried to stab her.
Victoria returned to the bach, locked the door and decided their holiday was over.
It was later explained in a Facebook post that the screwdriver was intended for prising the pitbull's jaw apart if needed.
“Later when I looked out the window I could still see the dog roaming a section around kids playing.”
Victoria then raised the alarm with police and the Western Bay of Plenty District Council.
On the beach, locals tried to resuscitate the nine to 10-month-old pup by pouring water on it. But it died.
The woman accused of wielding the screwdriver will appear in Tauranga District Court on Wednesday in connection with the incident.
Victoria's ordeal triggered a big response when she posted on a Pukehina Facebook site.
“That's the same dog that growled at me and tried to attack me and my 10-month-old son on our own property…no one will speak up because they are scared to,” said one post.
“That mutt will hurt someone really bad one day. I am not surprised it killed the seal,” said another.
And “the next time it may not be a seal, it may be your moko. Locals need to say it's not ok”.
The Department of Conservation is now considering whether to prosecute the owner, says DOC partnership ranger Kate Miller.
Owners of dogs that attack or harass seals can face prosecution under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, and up to two years in jail or a fine of up to $250,000.
“For us the really big thing to push with the public is that your dog and the seal will be kept safe if you put your dog on a lead when walking near a seal,” says Kate.
“When walking on a beach keep an eye out for seals. They can look like logs, so you need to be really aware.”
Western Bay of Plenty District Council compliance and regulatory manager Alison Curtis says animal service officers have not been able to seize the dog in question yet.
"We have attempted to more than once however the owners are not cooperating.
"The dog is a male, pitbull terrier-type cross, tan coloured and classified as menacing. It is not registered," she says.
"We are working with DOC and the police and hope to seize the dog shortly. No charges have been laid yet."