A WOMAN is warning pet owners to protect small animals from foxes after finding her pet dog savaged to death.

Jackie Cockbill, 51, of Oakhurst Road, Southend, was distraught when she found Sophie lying dead in her back garden.

But it was not the first time Sophie, an 11-year-old cross between a chihuahua and a Yorkshire terrier, had been attacked by urban foxes.

Mrs Cockbill said: "Last December, I heard her screaming in the garden and found her in a heap.

"I thought she wouldn't make it because of injuries to her leg, which paralysed it, and left her walking on three legs.

"The vet did confirm she had been attacked by foxes."

Since that attack, the mother-of-four says she never let Sophie - who was about the size of a rabbit - into the garden on her own.

But the recent warm weather gave her cause to change her mind.

Mrs Cockbill said: "We thought it was such a nice morning, so we let her out and thought no more about it.

"When I eventually found her, she had puncture wounds on her back so I rushed her to the vet, who confirmed she was dead and that she had been attacked by a fox again.

"I just wanted to warn people who feed foxes they can be killers and are not pets.

"All small animals should be protected from them."

A spokesman for the RSPCA said: "I've never heard of a fox attacking a dog before, even a small one, but obviously I cannot question the vets who saw the wound.

"But very small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs are at risk and should be protected from foxes, and even large pets like dogs."