A DOG named Tiny Tim was mauled to death in front of his horrified 82-year-old owner just days after Christmas.

The Chihuahua was attacked in a park in Seaton Carew as his owner – who is recovering from cancer – looked on, helpless.

His daughter-in-law Gwendolynn Heley said the tiny dog was mauled by a larger Jack Russell cross – which grabbed hold and wouldn’t release its grip.

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Her father-in-law Robert could only watch as his beloved pet was killed on Thursday.

Mrs Heley said: “Once it took hold there were three men who came to help, struggling to pull this dog away, shouting and kicking it, but it was such a struggle to get it to release its grip.

“Robert could only watch as this out-of-control dog mauled the tiny dog, crushing his ribs and breaking his neck.

“He desperately kicked and cried, trying to get the attacking dog off. It would not release the dog until it had killed it.

“The old man picked up his fatally injured little dog. He took it home and then the family rushed it to a vet but Tiny Tim was dead.

“He loved this little dog and took care of him for ten years, and this was how he lived his life, taking care of the dog, and walking him. He is the most gentle man I have ever known and he is terribly traumatised by it.

“We fear for his health because he is recovering from cancer.”

She said the dog’s owner and others desperately tried to save him – but the dog died a gruesome and traumatic death as one of his lungs was punctured.

His owner was asked if he wanted to press charges but due to his own ill-health and that of his wife, he did not want to go through a trial.

Mrs Heley said: “He hates any kind of confrontation and I think a trial would finish him off.

“The police have told the owner to keep the dog caged but that doesn’t solve the problem. This dog is clearly vicious and it was loose that day because it had escaped, and I know people will be worried if it were to attack a child or another small dog.

“I think as a society we need to ensure that dangerous dogs like this are destroyed.”

She added: “He witnessed the ferocious fatal attack and was powerless to help his screaming little dog.

“Like so many ordinary, law-abiding people, especially the older members of our society, Robert built his quiet life around the care and love of his darling Tiny Tim.”

She said her father-in-law, an armed forces veteran and former council worker, was the ‘salt of the earth’ and she and all the family were devastated for him.