A shepherd is being investigated for manslaughter after a pack of dogs being used to guard a herd of goats mauled a university student to death.
Simona Cavallaro, a 20-year-old Italian, was walking with a male friend at a popular picnic spot in Calabria when she was savagely run down by at least a dozen dogs.
Reports from Italy said an autopsy revealed major bites to her body, particularly her legs, and dog hair under her fingernails suggesting she attempted to fight back while trying to run back to a car.
Cavallaro's friend managed to escape and hide from the dogs in a nearby building in the southern Italian town of Satriano, where he called authorities.
Emergency services arrived at the scene and transported Cavallaro to a local hospital but she died shortly after arriving.
"Our lives are destroyed," Cavallaro's father Alfio wrote on Facebook. "My beloved daughter Simona passed away on this earthly life, my pain is immense as if half of my body had been removed. … It's not fair, our lives will be destroyed knowing that you have gone to heaven. God didn't need another angel."
Authorities immediately began rounding up the dogs, which included Maremma Shepherds, that were living wild but being used to protect goats.
Police said the dogs also attempted to attack officers when they entered the pine forest at Mt Fiorino and had to initially be driven away by pistol shots in the air.
Only one of the 12 dogs that were captured — some with blood still on their fur — had a microchip that identifies an owner.
But a 44-year-old shepherd is believed to be responsible for the animals and is under investigation.
"It's a huge tragedy that could and should have been avoided," Nino Spirli, the governor of Calabria, said.
The Italian government reportedly distributes $1 million a year to tackle the problem of stray dogs but Calabria and Sicily, where the problem is most acute, failed last year to report any statistics.
Massimo Comparotto, president of the International Organisation for Animal Protection, said: "This social plague, which is grave … in the south, is caused by the criminal abandonment of animals and by local administrations that look away."