SCARRED for life.

These are the horrific injuries suffered by a Hampshire girl when she was savaged by a dog during a visit to her grandmother's home.

Shannon Hills needed emergency surgery after her face, head and neck were ripped to shreds by the animal, an Irish Staffordshire bull terrier cross.

The nursery school pupil, who celebrated her fourth birthday the day before the attack, was admitted to hospital and is now in pain and has scores of stitches. Her angry parents have called for the dog to be destroyed.

However her grandmother, Christine Hills, who witnessed the attack, has defended the animal and told the Daily Echo: "He is not aggressive and does not need to be put down.

It is the latest in a string of attacks by dogs.

"She startled him and he went for her - they are not serious injuries."

The vicious attack comes less than a week after a five-month-old baby was mauled to death by two Rottweilers in Leicester.

A two-year-old boy suffered serious injuries when he too was bitten all over his face and body by a Rottweiler at his home near Bognor Regis, West Sussex.

In both cases the dogs were put down, but Shannon's parents Duane and Belinda said the dog that attacked their daughter is still alive.

"I want that dog dead" said Belinda, 26, at her home in Ashley, New Milton. "I will do whatever I need to do to make sure it is put down because I would not be able to live with myself if it did this to another child."

Shannon, who constantly complains of pain from her cut and bruised face, said: "Naughty doggy bit me - it hurts. My face is ripped."

Shannon was at her grandmother's home in Hunt Road, Somerford, Christchurch, when the dog struck.

The animal, which belongs to a family member, turned on Shannon after its muzzle was removed so it could be fed.

Grandmother Christine Hills managed to separate the child and the dog and Shannon was rushed to Poole Hospital by ambulance.

"We were going out for the evening and we got a call to say Shannon had been bitten by the dog" said her 31-year-old dad, Duane.

Covered in blood' "We were not prepared for what we saw when we got to the hospital. She was completely covered in blood and there were huge gashes all over her face and head.

"One of her ear-lobes had been partly ripped off and we thought the surgeons would not be able to do anything to help her."

Mr Hills said he believes the dog has now left his mother's home, but called for it to be put down.

The dog's owner, who is Duane's younger brother, was unavailable for comment.

But another brother, Stuart Hills, defended his grandmother and said he had been warned by his younger brother that the dog did not like children.

He added: "My mum is absolutely devastated. The dog does not need to be destroyed - it needs help. It would be wrong for my younger brother to lose his dog. I allow my own daughter to be near the dog because I feel it is safe."