A mother and toddler being pushed in a stroller were bitten several times by two Rottweiler dogs who escaped from a backyard in La Mesa Thursday, police said.
The mother, the two-year-old and an eight-year-old child were walking along Waite Drive near 69th Street just after 8 a.m. when the two female Rottweilers escaped their backyard kennel, jumped multiple gates and ran towards the family, La Mesa Police Department (LMPD) Lt. Brian Stoney said.
Both dogs began biting the toddler on his head, face and arm as he sat in his stroller. The 29-year-old mother, Karina Gonzalez, tried to pull the dog away from her son but was knocked to the ground.
One of the dogs began attacking her while the other continued to bite her child, Stoney said.
Several neighbors witnessed the attack and ran to aid the family.
"They were still getting attacked so I just started punching both the dogs as hard as I could and screaming loud trying to scare them to get off and just kept punching them 'til they let go," witness Jamir Grigsby said.
The dogs' owners, Nathan Lee, saw what was happening and ran outside to pull the dogs back inside.
Lee said the dogs are family pets raised in a loving home and said his family was conscious enough not to rough house or even yell around them so that they wouldn't learn aggressive behavior. He said he made strict rules because he knew one day they would be very large dogs.
"If I could wish one thing to undo in my entire life I wish I could undo that," Lee said. "All of this is heartbreaking."
The toddler, Miguel Angel Gonzalez, will need surgery on his arm but was expected to survive, LMPD said. The mother's injuries were also considered serious but not life-threatening.
They were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Animal control officers determined the dogs were a danger and took them to the El Cajon Animal Shelter. The dogs are being held in quarantine and if the determination is upheld after further review by Animal Control they could be euthanized. The review process includes testimony from both the victims and the owner.
According to the city of La Mesa municipal code, the LMPD chief has the final say and will make the decision when the process is complete.
Lee said he hasn't had problems with the dogs in the two years he's had them other than a few escape attempts, but neighbors told NBC 7 a different story.
Mariza Gomez said the dogs had a bad temperament and sometimes they're outside without the owner present.
An investigation into the incident is ongoing and no one has been charged at this time.
A GoFundMe page has been started to help the family of the mother and toddler with recovery costs.