The father of a 1-year-old girl was forced to kill the family’s pet pit bull to stop it from mauling the child to death, PEOPLE confirms.
Just before 9 a.m. on Sunday, police in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, received a 911 call from a resident who reported that a 1-year old girl had been attacked by the family dog, the Falmouth Police Department said in a statement.
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The child was playing in the kitchen with her father nearby when the dog attacked the child, the statement reads.
The dog, which the family has owned for five years without incident, “bit her in the face causing major trauma,” leaving her with life-threatening injuries, say police.
“The father immediately attempted to separate the dog from the child,” the statement says.
When he was unable to pull the dog away from his daughter, he retrieved a pistol from an adjacent room, the statement says.
“When he realized that it was not loaded he grabbed a knife and began stabbing the animal in order to protect the child,” the statement says.
The dog was fatally wounded.
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After the attack, the girl was transported to the Falmouth Hospital by ambulance, and then to a Boston area hospital by helicopter.
“At this time, the attack appears to have been unprovoked,” the statement says, adding that the incident remains under investigation.
Police did not release the names of the father or the child.
The child is listed in serious condition, a spokeswoman from Boston Children’s Hospital tells PEOPLE.