A three-year-old girl was mauled to death and her sister seriously injured in a dog attack in New South Wales, Australia.
A 45-year-old female carer was found collapsed with minor injuries after police were called to the house on Beechworth Street, Whitton, near Leeton in the Riverina, at 11am Wednesday.
They found the three-year-old girl dead and a 15-month-old girl with serious facial injuries.
The girls had been left at the house by their parents to be cared for.
The attacks, at the house in the small NSW town, stunned the tiny town of 350 people. Apparently the owners of the property, believed to be friends of the children's parents, kept large dogs.
Ronald Conlan owns the house and shares it with his de facto wife. Neighbours yesterday described them as a quiet couple who kept to themselves.
They heard screaming from the house about 11am and were horrified by what they saw. The woman caring for the girls is believed to have been injured trying to save the children and later collapsed from shock.
One neighbour said: "I was first on the scene. I have nothing to say. All I know is it was tragic."
By the time the police and an ambulance arrived, the three-year-old was dead and, according to police, the 15 month-old was in "a serious but non-life-threatening condition" with bites to the face.
She and the carer, 45, were taken to Leeton Hospital where they were met by her parents. The toddler was transferred to Wagga Wagga Base Hospital.
Warren Eurell, who lives five doors from the home, said the dog suspected of having attacked the girls lived in the house and was not known to be vicious.
"The dog was probably just trying to protect its space," he said. "I know the owner, Ron. He takes the dog for walks along the street."
In a statement, the girls' father, George Burke, has appealed for privacy while the family grieves and cares for Lilly.
"The dog attack was an accident and nobody's fault," he told police.
Police established a crime scene at the property. They said they had impounded four dogs that had been involved in the attack.
Three of the dogs, which were to be put down, died overnight in the Leeton pound, apparently from a combination of being heavily sedated, the heat and their obesity. The fourth dog is yet to be put down.
Meanwhile the NSW Government has announced it will review its dangerous dog laws following yesterday's mauling.
Acting Local Government Minister Michael Daley says the state has the toughest dangerous dog laws in Australia.
"After we receive the police report and the council report into the matter, we'll have another look at those laws and see, after we receive advice from the experts, whether there might be some additional measures that the Government can take to try and make sure that these things don't happen again,' he said.
"The easiest way is to make sure that young children are not left unsupervised with a dog that has the potential to hurt them."
But veterinarian Dr Peter Higgins from Dogs NSW says there are not enough people on the ground to enforce the current laws.
"Councils need more rangers, the RSPCA need more inspectors, the Animal Welfare League needs more inspectors, so just making the laws even tougher still, I don't think that's going to solve the question we've got here," he said.
"What I think would be better would be to have an education program for people so they actually know what to do with their dogs when they get them. It's not a hard thing to do."
As a general rule children should not be left alone with dogs, especially dogs they were unfamiliar with. Dogs were pack animals and children were capable of doing things that upset them, Higgins warned.
The head of the RSPCA in Albury says the fatal dog attack is a reminder to keep large dogs away from children.
Dr Arthur Fraunfelder says these type of dogs can be domesticated, but are unpredictable.
"They're a fantastic dog as far as being domesticated and fitting in the family, but they, like all dogs, have a hierarchy and dogs have who's the boss and who's the next in the pack and unfortunately young children fit at the lower level of the pack," he said.
He says the owner of the dogs had no chance of controlling them as there is usually no time to act when a dog decides to attack.
"The animals just turned on everything and anything. They sometimes even attack themselves because they're trying to then work their way up the pack as well.
"But it's a case of once they become frenzied like they did and especially with the blood around, then they will attack anything."