VANCOUVER -- A man was put in handcuffs and his pit bull taken to an animal hospital after a disturbing incident downtown Friday night.

Witnesses watched in shock as an unidentified man picked up his dog, lifted it overhead, and slammed the animal onto its back against the sidewalk.

Throughout the ordeal, which took place around 9:30 p.m. on Abbott St., the pit bull is seen wearing a harness and leash, which the owner had wrapped around his hand.

Tiffany Mak recorded the incident on her cell phone.

"We all ran at him and called the cops," she told CTV News Vancouver. "It was heartbreaking."

Police on foot patrol arrested the man for cruelty to animals, confirmed Vancouver police spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin.

The pit pull was taken to the Vancouver Animal Emergency Referral Centre.

"The man was released from police custody without his dog," said Visintin in an email. "The SPCA will investigate and determine the outcome."

Mak described the ordeal that led to the violence before police arrived. She said a group of men was interacting with the pit bull and its owner when she saw the dog suddenly spring towards a man on a bicycle.

"The pit bull’s owner was letting it lunge," said Mak, noting the dog was on a leash the entire time, "but getting really close."

The second man then swung his bike at the pair and appeared to try and kick the dog, she said.

Don Minaker also witnessed the encounter and said the dog owner appeared to be encouraging the pit bull’s behaviour.

"He had lunged his dog towards the guy with the bike," said Minaker. "Suddenly there was a lot of yelling and dog barking. The next thing we saw was the bicycle go sideways."

The dog owner began shouting at Mak and Minaker as well as the crowd around him.

"He started yelling at us, saying he can do whatever he wants because it’s his dog, and his dog will do whatever he wants it to do," said Minaker.

Shortly after, the officers arrived and put the man in handcuffs. One cop could be seen petting the pit bull.

"We heard the whimpering," said Minaker, describing the sound coming from the lean, grey and white pit bull. "The dog was just shaking. It was wobbling while it walked."