The power of its jaws haunts Christine Leclair even today.

“His mouth was closed so much I couldn’t even stick my hand between,” she says in an exclusive interview with CTV News, re-enacting her desperate attempt to free her toddler Cali from the pit bull’s bite.

It happened in seconds in the living room of their family home on April 27, 2014. Leclair says Cali was walking towards her father, Tanner, when the dog – which was lying on the ground – attacked.

She says the dog held on for about five minutes before finally letting go. The injuries were devastating with huge lacerations to Cali’s nose and cheek.

“If he didn’t let go I can pretty much guarantee you she wouldn’t be here right now,” says Leclair.

The family says it had taken in the dog named “Boss” from an old friend the day before. Leclair says she’s always been honest about knowing it had nipped at his child, but was never told it was capable of this kind of attack.

“There’s a big difference between nipping and biting and attacking somebody,” she explains.

Leclair adds she was in the process of trying to find the dog another home.

The pit bull was put down three days later by its original owner.

According to Linda Anderson, Ottawa’s By-law and Regulatory Services Chief, the owner has been charged with the following offences under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act:

  • owning a pit bull dog contrary to Section 6(a) of the Act
  • transferring a pit bull, whether by sale, gift, or otherwise, contrary to Section 6(c) of the Act

The owner will appear in court on September 11, 2014.

Leclair says the incident has forever changed her opinion of pit bulls.

“I was in that group of people (who thought) pit bulls aren't that bad, any dog can be a good dog,” says Leclair. “After seeing what it can do. I don’t advise anybody with young children to own that dog.”

Now, all the focus is on Cali's recovery. The toddler doesn't seem to remember the incident and her boundless energy gives her parents strength.

Cali is being treated at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. She’s already undergone two surgeries and her recovery is expected to take years.

Leclair says she’s had to drop her college courses and can’t work while she gets Cali the care she needs.

The family has set up a fund which can receive donations at any Royal Bank location under the account number 00084-003-5208442.

Leclair says the most important thing is her daughter hasn't changed and continues to be a brave and happy toddler.

“Cali has been the same, just very outgoing and I'm very thankful for that,” She says.

With a report from CTV’s John Hua