A pensioner has been left devastated after a Staffordshire bull terrier attacked the tiny dog he was walking and "ripped it to pieces" near a children's play park in Co Down.
The 68-year-old man was out walking his daughter's Yorkshire terrier and Shih Tzu crossbreed on Thursday afternoon when it was set upon by the unaccompanied dog near Londonderry Park in Newtownards.
His daughter, who was the owner of nine-year-old Evie, was visiting her parents' house and was at home with her mum when the shocking incident unfolded nearby at around 5pm.
"There was no warning, no growl and no bark - it just went straight for her stomach which was her weak spot," she explained.
"Neighbours ran out to help and they did everything to get the dog off including soaking it with water.
"A young guy even tried to separate the Staffy's jaws with his own hands, but it was hopeless.
"It was horrific by the time I got there - everyone was covered in blood."
Local residents eventually managed to separate the animals and were initially hopeful as Evie was still breathing, despite the catastrophic injuries she sustained.
"It went for her sister Daisy straight away but my mum swooped her up into her arms just in time," the grieving pet lover recalled.
"We didn't know what to do so we got Evie into the car and drove her to the vets, but it was closed and we had to phone an emergency number.
"By the time help arrived she'd stopped whimpering and was no longer breathing.
"It was such an awful way to go."
The family have been reassured by the vet's belief that nothing could have been done to save their beloved pooch.
The traumatic incident has sparked fears among dog walkers, but also among parents who visit the park with small children.
"Evie was a hefty wee thing - she would have been the same size as a small child," her distraught owner said.
"This happened near the bridge that leads into the park, which is where the dog came from.
"My dad could have easily been with his two-year-old granddaughter.
"No one wants to go out with their pet after this, but lots of families are worried too."
A PSNI spokesperson has confirmed they are aware of the fatal attack.
"This matter has now been passed to the local dog warden who will be carrying out an investigation," they added.
The Belfast Telegraph understands social services have also been informed that the killer Staffordshire bull terrier is currently residing in a property with other animals and young children present.
Ards and North Down councillor Naomi Armstrong Cotter says she is a dog owner herself, but also a mother.
"This was an absolutely horrific attack which has left the owner and carers of this dog incredibly distressed," she said.
"This poor wee dog was ripped to pieces in front of them and there are serious concerns in the community which now need to be addressed.
"This could have been a child and that fact has not been lost on anyone," she said. Mrs Armstrong-Cotter said there are many children who play in quiet cul-de-sacs in the area as she called for urgent action from all relevant authorities.
"My heart is in my mouth when I think what might happen," she added.
"I absolutely adore dogs, but the one that did this can't be allowed to do it again.
"I have contacted the dog warden, the council and animal welfare to make sure the necessary action is taken as soon as possible."
However, for Evie's heartbroken owner no action will be enough to console her following the tragic loss.
"There's two bowls, two collars and two leads and only one wee dog now," she said.
"No one ever expected that she would never come home from her walk.
"Daisy has lost her side-kick, but for us it's like having a family member for nearly ten years who's just been snatched away.
"We're all completely devastated, and I think my dad's still in shock - he's gone very quiet since it happened.
"But we're also very worried about the risk that is still present in our community."