Twice in five months, an El Cajon mother has had to sprint through her yard to reach her son who had been attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull.
Despite the physical and emotional trauma the attacks have caused to her entire family, she could find herself racing to protect her children from the same dog a third time.
“It was a matter of five to ten seconds -- Quick," Llara Sutherland said, describing the moment her son Atreyu was bitten on Monday. "The dog turned and just went.”
Atreyu was in his yard watering plants when he was blindsided by the medium-sized, but extremely muscular dog. He said he heard some barking and thought nothing of it and next thing he knew the pit bull was bolting in his direction.
Bandages on Atreyu's right bicep cover up the scratches and punctures left behind by the dog's fierce grip.
The first attack happened around Halloween of last year while Atreyu was helping his dad put up yard decorations. Then, he suffered multiple bite injuries to his leg.
Since the most recent attack, the dog is being kept at the City of El Cajon's Shelter.
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The city, however, told the Sutherland family that there is a possibility that the pit could be returned to their neighbor's home.
The thought of the dog returning to the block frightens the whole Sutherland family and leaves them questioning how it could even be possible.
“The first time it happened should have been enough," Llara said. "It was enough for me.”
Llara said both her son and daughter have had to take anxiety medication following the attacks because the dog wasn't immediately removed from the property and its presence scared the kids.
“If the dog can get him it can get me, it can get anyone else in the neighborhood,” Atreyu's sister Crystine said.
Llara said that while the dog was still on the property, she nor her kids felt safe. She said that she had to stand on the porch and watch them pass the house on their walk to school, and in some cases drive them to and pick them up from school herself.
As an owner of two dogs, including one pit bull, Llara said it isn't an issue about breed. Instead, it's an issue about responsible dog ownership and whether or not the city will do the right thing.
“If my dogs attacked a person, a human being, then they wouldn’t be my dogs," Llara said. "It’s just as simple as that.”
The city has told Llara that the dog could return to its owner's property with certain restrictions like a muzzle order.
Llara said she's contacted the city attorney's office and threatened litigation against the city and county if the dog is brought back.
The pit bull is currently under quarantined for 10 days while Animal Services investigates the incidents to determine if it should be considered a dangerous dog.