Woman, 86, torn apart by pack of terriers

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The Independent Online

The death of an 86-year-old woman in western France - ripped to pieces by five dogs - has underlined the failure of efforts by the government to control and ultimately abolish pitbull terriers and other "attack dogs".

The death of an 86-year-old woman in western France - ripped to pieces by five dogs - has underlined the failure of efforts by the government to control and ultimately abolish pitbull terriers and other "attack dogs".

The woman was attacked on Thursday on an isolated road near her home in Tonnay Charente, near Rochefort, by four Staffordshire terriers and a pitbull. A motorist found the body and called the gendarmerie and emergency services. A gendarme said: "It's impossible to describe the state of her body. It was difficult at first to know whether it was a man or a woman."

The dogs had escaped from the enclosed garden of a 36-year-old woman and her 20-year-old-son. Both were arrested and held in custody.

Under a law that took effect last year, all dogs from breeds that are considered dangerous must be chained or kept on a leash and registered with the authorities. Pitbulls must be sterilised or neutered; breeding is forbidden.

The gendarmerie said none of the dogs that attacked the woman had been registered. The animals had made a hole in the fence surrounding their owner's property on the edge of an industrial estate. Gendarmes believe that the attack lasted only seconds.

Despite the draconian nature of the new law, there have been a number of attacks on people - mostly children - by dangerous dogs in France this year. Last month a four-year-old boy was savaged by a pitbull on the streets of a housing estate at Villepinte, in the northern Paris suburbs. The dog was walking with its owner but was not on a leash.

Pitbulls are a status symbol - and sometimes protection - for residents of sink housing estates. Surveys by local authorities and newspapers suggest the dangerous-dog law is being widely ignored and not enforced by police.

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