A bullmastiff dog that attacked a 10-month-old baby Friday in Holiday is not a vicious animal, its caretaker and child's aunt say.
The attack happened Friday afternoon when Stephanie Murphy and her 10-month-old son, Joshua, were at an apartment.
Neighbors said Murphy, of Tarpon Springs, was visiting with a friend when the two heard the dog growling. When they got to Joshua, he was being attacked.
Joshua suffered bites to his head and shoulder. He is recovering at All Children's Hospital and is expected to be OK, authorities said.
Calling the attack a “freak accident,” Murphy’s sister, Jessica Dyrmishi, spoke to the media outside the hospital Saturday afternoon.
“This was truly a freak accident; it wasn’t negligence," Dyrmishi said. "It wasn’t a dog she (the mother) didn’t know or wasn’t familiar with or the baby wasn’t familiar with. She was feet away from the baby, she turned her head for a moment, there was an attack, she reacted the best way she knew how. This wasn’t a vicious animal she left around her son.”
Animal Control officers took the dog, named Champ, from the home.
“This baby (played with the dog) 100 times, like pulling on the lips, hugging, always around the dog,” said Dyrmishi, noting nothing like this has ever happened before.
The dog owners say Champ is normally a sweet dog.
"We love the mother, the father and the baby so much," said Janna Garlock, who helps care for the dog. "We’re just so relieved that the baby is fine."
Garlock said she was told Champ may be put to sleep in 72 hours. She said she wants more time because Champ's owner, her stepson, is out of town.
Pasco County authorities listed Champ's owner as Megan Pitmann, the live-in girlfriend of the stepson.
Meanwhile, Dyrmishi said she’s looking forward to celebrating her nephew’s first birthday in two months.
“He’s a big baby, he’s a strong baby and I think he’ll definitely pull through okay,” she said. “He will have scarring, but he’s alive and I just can’t wait for him to be okay.”
Dyrmishi said Joshua is her sister’s only child.
“My sister actually had a child pass away (stillborn). ... She was told she was not able to have children and she got pregnant with Josh Jr.,” she said, calling her nephew a “miracle baby.”
Dyrmishi said the child’s father works as a commercial fisherman and just learned of the news from her.
“He was horrified,” she said.