A DOG owner watched in horror as her pet was savaged to death by a pitbull-type terrier.

Tracey Dale, 43, said she ‘can’t stop crying’ after 12-year-old shih tzu Benji was ‘ripped apart’ during the attack outside a Darwen chip shop.

Police said that although the attacking dog was a pitbull type, it is not a banned breed, and they cannot enforce any action against the owner.

Ms Dale stopped at the London Terrace Chippie while taking Benji for a walk at 5.30pm last Thursday.

After tying him up, she was queuing only a few yards away when the black and white terrier, which didn’t have a lead and collar, locked its jaws around Benji’s throat.

Ms Dale, who has grown up children, said: “I’’ve had him since he was an eight-week-old pup and he was like a child to me.

“I was in the queue for chips when I heard some yelping, and the man behind the counter said that my dog was being attacked.

“I ran out and was trying to prize the other dog off Benji, but his jaws were locked.

“Then other people came out and were trying to beat the dog with a stick. It was frantic.

“Then the other dog managed to pull Benji off his lead and ran away with him down the road.

“A girl went after them and found Benji. She told me he wasn’t dead, and drove me to the nearest vets.

“I held him in my arms and I knew he was slipping away. He had a big chunk missing out of his neck and there was blood all over.

“When we got to Abbeydale vets in Railway Road, I collapsed.

"When I came round a few minutes later the vet said to me that he was very badly injured and the kindest thing to do would be to put him to sleep.”

Ms Dale, of Atlas Road, Darwen, added: “It’s devastating to see that happen. Benji was such a placid dog. You could take food out of his mouth and he wouldn’t care.

“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it’s frightening to think that it could have been a child that was attacked.”

Mrs Dale reported the incident to Darwen police station, but was at first wrongly told it was a matter for the borough’s dog warden.

However, police have since confirmed that after a separate telephone call from a witness, an officer was dispatched to trace the owner of the attacking dog.

Police said she told them the animal had escaped and, in accordance with their advice, she had agreed to put the dog down.

A police spokeswoman said: “Our role is to speak to the owner and give them advice on what to do, such as to destroy the dog, or to make sure it is always kept on a lead and muzzled. We have to give them a chance to put it right, but if we are not happy, we can go down the court route.”