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Knocked to the ground in terrifying dog attack

'I was absolutely terrified but I told myself not to panic'

A Gisborne woman who uses a walker to assist her mobility was knocked to the ground from behind by a pitbull terrier.

Judy Smith, 73, is fearful of dogs after the attack, which happened in the first week of November.

It was reported to the police and Gisborne District Council, but Mrs Smith is angry about having had no response from either -- however, the council does not have a record of her call.

She was across the road from a bakery near the top of Lytton Road when the incident happened.

“As I walked down the road I suddenly got the most horrendous pain in my left calf. The force propelled me into the air but I held on to the handles of the walker.”

She saw a large pitbull with no collar, and no lead or muzzle. Although there were no lacerations on her leg there was a contusion as big as a small football, she says.

“I knew my ankles had been twisted and I was absolutely petrified but I told myself not to panic. I thought the dog might have been more frightened of me than I was of it so I thought I would just wait.”

Back on her feet she kept her walker between herself and the dog.

“I turned away gently but as soon as I did that the dog was on my back. I shook it off and it landed with its legs in the air.”

Mrs Smith again put her walker between herself and the dog.

Two vehicles were parked in the driveway the dog had come from but no one came out to help her, she says. With one hand behind her back she surreptitiously waved down two passing cars and the dog ran under a ute parked in the driveway.

Because she had not been bitten, Mrs Smith declined an offer to be taken to hospital. But she did ask her rescuers to call animal control about the roaming animal that had attacked her.

Before continuing her walk home she asked the people to keep an eye on the dog until she was at a safe distance.

She shook for an hour-and-a-half after she got home, she says. She bandaged her leg to help control the swelling and lay down to help ease the pain.

Mrs Smith phoned the police the following day to report the dog attack then reported it to the GDC.

“I can't say the response was great. I thought ‘at least I've done that. Let's see what happens'.”

Mrs Smith lives with a neuromuscular condition which took a turn for the worse after the dog attack. A GP gave her a support for her leg. When she later twisted an ankle in a mishap at home, the injury was diagnosed as a fracture and Mrs Smith was given moon boots to support her legs.

“I was in shock at the time of the attack. What I did was sensible and structured but I think I've been psychologically hurt,” she says.

“I can't see myself crossing a road if a dog is nearby.”

GDC staff were unable to find any record of a request for service (RFS) under the name of Judy Smith.

Animal control were notified about a dog attack on a man in Lytton Road on a slightly earlier date — October 18. When officers spoke to the man, he said a woman had also been bowled over by the dog but she had since gone and he didn't know who she was.

Officers were not able to track down the dog on the day. A dog trap was put in the area but with no result, says animal control and parking team leader Ross Hannam.

BOWLED OVER: Gisborne woman Judy Smith is in moon boots and on crutches after she was attacked from behind and knocked to the ground by a pitbull terrier in Lytton Road. A pre-existing condition means she uses a walker to get around and when she was knocked over she injured her ankles. The condition was aggravated when she twisted her ankle on uneven ground at home. Picture by Paul Rickard

  1. Charmaine Fouhy says:

    This is a huge issue for our community and we need to address this danger of roaming dogs and the injuries inflicted both psychically and psychologically on members of our community – who should feel safe to walk our streets. Perhaps it is an appropriate time for a Herald poll on the public’s experiences around this problem. More importantly, Gisborne District Council should definitely implement a public survey regarding its Animal Control division’s response times, complaints resolutions and general experience with the service. I also believe that alongside that the council should conduct an audit of the current service and its structure, speak with staff – the ones at the ‘Rock Face’. Also, does the budget keep pace with the growing problem, do the resources and technology required match the problem, do the by-laws and punishments require an overhaul to have “Less Bark and More Bite” to set issues right!! If extra funding and support is required to boost the efforts and morale of this hard-working department, I fervently hope that is forthcoming without delay.

  2. Leon says:

    I think the issue here is less about the by-laws, and the implementation of those by-laws, and more around the owners. Of course, most owners are well and good and aware of responsibilities, and sometimes accidents happen and gates are left unsecured or a courier doesn’t close a gate properly or other similar things. However, if the dogs aren’t registered nor chipped then, even if the dog is caught roaming, I guess no action can be taken as there is no evidence of an owner. Even if that dog is impounded, nothing stops the same people getting another dog and the same circumstances repeating.
    It’s a terribly difficult situation for all involved really, but it seems like this article has taken the easy option and just created a sensationalist story to get clicks, without much real understanding of the truth of the situation for all involved.

    1. Mark Peters says:

      “I guess no action can be taken as there is no evidence of an owner. ”
      I, at least, didn’t guess. I spoke to the victim and to animal control.
      The dog was unavailable for comment.