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Friday, 2 June, 2000, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Dog pack kills elderly woman
Pitbull terrier
Putbull terriers are covered by new French laws
An elderly woman has been mauled to death by a pack of dogs in France, only months after a legal clampdown on dangerous breeds.

The 86-year-old was attacked by a pitbull terrier and four American Staffordshire terriers which had escaped through a hole in their owners' fence.

Her body was found at a roadside near the southwestern town of Rochefort, Charente-Maritime, still surrounded by the animals.

A police officer said the body was so mutilated that it was difficult at first to know whether the victim was a man or woman.

Police have arrested the dogs' owners under the recently-introduced laws on dangerous animals, but the case is expected to reopen the debate over whether the legislation goes far enough.

A 1991 attack on Rucksana Khan sparked similar laws in the UK
A 1991 attack on Rucksana Khan sparked similar laws in the UK
The owners, two members of the same family aged 36 and 20, are being held by gendarmes in the village of Tonnay-Charente, just outside Rochefort.

Under the new laws, which came into force in January, the pitbull terrier should have been registered with the local authorities, vaccinated, tattooed and sterilised.

The Staffordshires should have been kept on a leash and muzzled in public areas, as well as being registered.

The village mayor, Jean-Pierre Guillon, said the two men had not complied with the laws.

'Wave of attacks'

Local vet Partick Stroh, who put the dogs down after the attack, said it was clear that at least part of the law had been broken.

"I obviously don't know if the dogs are registered or have the correct papers, but I can say that none of them were tattooed or sterilised," he said.

The law was passed with overwhelming support by the French National Assembly, with the aim of ridding the country of pitbulls and other dangerous dogs following a wave of attacks.

Court officials in Rochefort said the deputy public prosecutor would be examining the legal facts of the case on Friday.

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