French hunters are facing calls for a blanket ban this season after a pregnant woman was killed by dogs while a hunt with hounds was taking place nearby.
The body of the 29-year-old, who was walking her own dogs, was discovered on a path in the forest of Retz near the town of Villers-Cotterêts, northeast of Paris.
She died after "several dog bites to the upper and lower limbs and the head," said local prosecutor Frederic Trinh.
Police are conducting tests on 93 dogs in an attempt to establish which of the dogs were behind the attack.
The woman, who was six months pregnant, was walking with five of her own dogs when the attack took place.
An autopsy showed that the victim suffered dog bites to the head, torso and arms before and after death. Police said they had opened a manslaughter investigation.
“No line of inquiry has been ruled out at this stage,” said the prosecutor, including the possibility she was attacked by stray dogs. “Numerous technical investigations will help determine the origin of the bites.”
The woman had telephoned her husband on Saturday to say she was worried that a pack of dogs were about to attack her. He later found her body, reportedly after following the distressed cries of her dogs.
The pack of hounds was hunting deer, according to the local newspaper Le Courrier Picard.
Brigitte Bardot, the former actress who is president of an animal welfare foundation, called on French authorities to immediately suspend "all hunt authorisation for this season" after the "shocking" death.
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The French hunting association said in a statement that there was no evidence of "the involvement of hunting hounds in the death of this woman”.
It said that there were 30,000 hunting dogs in France in 390 companies. “These dogs are trained to hunt a particular animal and obey man in all circumstances,” it said.