A Vancouver family is mourning a beloved therapy dog that was torn open in front of their eyes by a leashed pit bull over the weekend.

Mia Johnson and her daughter were walking their miniature pinschers, Yuri and Mary, to a post office in Kitsilano on Saturday when they saw a woman struggling to control her Staffordshire bull terrier.

Johnson said the dog was muzzled but seemed intent on attacking, and eventually managed to slip out of its guard and clamp its jaws onto Yuri’s stomach.

“Once he had him in his mouth, we couldn’t get him out,” she said. “It was just fastened to him.”

Johnson, her daughter, the pit bull owner and passersby all tried to separate the dogs. Johnson said they hit the pit bull’s head, pulled its ears, punched its nose and even poked its eyes, to no avail.

When the pit bull finally released Yuri, Johnson took the frightened dog into her arms, only to realize it had been disemboweled.

“I looked down and I realized everything inside him was out of him. It fell out in my hands, and then I started screaming,” she said.

The family’s veterinarian was just five blocks away, and someone offered to drive Johnson and Yuri straight over. After ensuring someone could console and care for her adult daughter, who has autism, Johnson accepted.

The idea of saving the dog’s life already seemed futile, but she hoped to relieve its suffering as fast as the veterinarian could manage.

“I didn’t want him to have to wait any longer,” she said.

“He was in agony. He bit right through my purse strap. It’s about an inch thick, he just chewed right through it.”

Both Yuri and Mary were purchased for Johnson’s daughter, Laurel Owen. The family said the two miniature pinschers helped her through depression, gave her confidence to go outdoors, and made her less dependent on her mother.

“He meant a lot to me. He was my first therapy dog,” Owen said. “He was a sweet little boy.”

The pit bull has been seized by animal control. The city will gather facts and do an assessment before determining what happens to the dog.

Johnson, who also suffered minor injuries in the attack, said there’s only one reasonable response.

“The dog needs to be put to sleep,” she said. “It eviscerated our dog.”

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Alex Turner