BERLIN — Four attack dogs killed a 3-year-old toddler in eastern Germany and badly injured the girl's great-grandmother, who had tried to rescue the girl, police said on Saturday.
Prosecutors opened an investigation for negligent homicide against the dogs' owner, the girl's aunt, police spokeswoman Jeanette Schwahn-Witzenhausen said.
The girl and her 70-year-old great-grandmother had been visiting the girl's aunt Friday evening in Oldisleben-Sachsenburg in Thuringia state when the Staffordshire bull terriers attacked the girl while she was in the house, police said.
The great-grandmother tried to stop the dogs, each weighing between 65 and 90 pounds (30 to 40 kilograms), but only the aunt rushing in from the garden was able to pull them away, police said.
The girl died on the scene, about a week before her fourth birthday. She lived in the same village and had visited her aunt previously, prosecutor Sandra Bock said, adding that authorities had yet to question the 44-year-old woman.
Veterinarian Gunter Wolf said the dogs had bitten the girl's head "very aggressively" until moments before her death, German news agency DAPD reported from nearby Nordhausen. Wolf said that while the animals' behavior was abnormal, but they did not have rabies.
The dogs were killed by authorities with the aunt's consent, police said.
They were not registered with authorities, as is required in Germany for dogs deemed potentially dangerous, DAPD quoted police officer Michael Becker as saying.
In a similar tragedy less than a month ago in Germany, a Husky killed an 8-week-old baby in Cottbus, in the eastern state of Brandenburg.