Girl survives vicious dog attack; mom has message for pet owners

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DENVER -- A young girl is recovering after being mauled by a pit bull while on a camping trip with her family.

When 5-year-old Jenika stepped out of her family's camper at a Nebraska lake over Memorial Day weekend, her mom said the family's dog, Cyrus, wasn't around.

“The dog lunged at her,” Kristen Johnston said.

Instead, the girl encountered a different pit bull chained to the camper next door.

“I went around and then he snapped,” Jenika said.

“She could have died.  He could have killed her.  Had she fought, I don't think she would be here.  I think it would have been a funeral,” Johnston said.

Mauled by the adult dog, Jenika was able to get away.

“Her face was ripped apart.  So basically you can see her jawline, her teeth, her tongue.  Her skin was flapped down,” Johnston said.

Suffering horrific injuries to her face, she was airlifted to Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora.

“It’s horrifying to know that it was so close to her eye and I'm the one that held her face together,” Johnston said.

Her mom said the dog is owned by a couple in Commerce City, where pit bulls are banned.

“It’s important no matter the breed, chain them up, make sure they are secure for the safety of your dog and your animals and your children,” Johnston said.

She's sharing her daughter's story to remind parents and pet owners to be extra cautious

“Summer, you know kids are going to be out playing, dogs are going to be out,” Johnston said.

Despite hundreds of stitches and several surgeries, Jenika isn't letting her physical scars become emotional ones.

“Don`t bite me, that's not nice,” Jenika said she would tell the dog that attacked her.

She just wants kids and animal owners to be safe.

“People need to understand the severity of their dogs,” Johnston said.

The Keith County District Attorney's Office has the case and will determine if charges against the pit bull’s owner will be filed. The dog is in quarantine and could possibly be put down.

Friends of Jenkia have set up a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses.

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