A 4-year-old boy’s leg was amputated at the ankle after he was mauled last weekend by a police dog under the care of his father, a Rialto officer, authorities said Thursday.
The boy remains hospitalized in Loma Linda. He’s expected to walk again with the help of a prosthetic leg, said Rialto Police Department Capt. Randy De Anda.
The attack occurred about 3 p.m. Sunday at the home of Officer Michael Mastaler near Concord Court and Nantucket Street in Hesperia, De Anda said.
Mastaler, a veteran officer and son of a retired Rialto police officer, came home from two days away working with at-risk youth, De Anda said. His wife and infant son were out shopping.
Inside the home, his 4-year-old son was playing video games when Mastaler released Jango, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois, from the kennel. The dog roamed in the backyard as Mastaler went inside his home to change, sliding the glass door shut.
At some point, the boy wandered outside, and the dog – trained to bite suspects and felons during police pursuits – bit into the child’s leg.
What prompted the apparent attack is under investigation. The dog had lived in the family’s home for more than two years, De Anda said.
Two teenagers playing football nearby heard the screams of a neighbor who spotted the attack, De Anda said.
One of the teens alerted his father, Jeff Houlemard, who knocked down the home’s wooden gate and kicked the dog in an effort to free the boy’s leg.
Jango wouldn’t let go.
Houlemard put his hands on the dog’s jaws to pry him from the boy’s ankle while two teens pulled the boy to safety.
“Houlemard then picked the K-9 up, slams him to the ground, sits down and bear hugs him,” De Anda said. “Had he not intervened, we’d probably be talking about a tragic death.”
The incident is being viewed as an accident, and Mastaler is not facing disciplinary action, De Anda said.
The Police Department, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s department, and the county’s animal control department are each performing investigations into the incident.
Jango is under quarantine, and police are determining whether the dog will be returned to service.
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