The city of Toronto is investigating the death of small puppy in The Beach last week, and trying to determine if the dog that killed it is an illegal pit bull.

The puppy was Mahal, a five-month-old Shih Tzu.

Her owner, Ronalyn Tiglao, told CBC Toronto that she was walking the dog last Friday morning on Spruce Hill Road near Queen Street East.

"It happened really fast."

She said she crossed the road with Mahal to greet a neighbour and her dog, which Tiglao believes is a pit bull.

Tiglao says she and her puppy were familiar with the neighbour and the other dog.

"They've seen each other before so it wasn't the first time or anything. They're friends," Tiglao said in an interview.

Puppy 2

Mahal, a Shih Tzu puppy killed by a pit bull, had encountered the dog before without incident, its owner says. The attack surprised both dogs' owners. (Submitted)

But as Tiglao approached, she says the other dog lunged for her puppy, biting down on its throat.

"It was an animal reaction," she said.

Neighbour put dog in 'chokehold'

Neighbour Ron McCarthy heard screaming near his home and when he came out saw the other dog with the puppy in its jaws.

Ronalyn beach

The puppy was killed on Spruce Hill Road in The Beach, near Queen Street East. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

"It had grabbed the neck, and was holding on to it," McCarthy said. "One of the neighbours finally got on top of the dog and put it into a chokehold and then I think the dog released its bite." 

Tiglao rushed Mahal to a nearby animal hospital, where the puppy was treated but could not be saved.

The city of Toronto's Animal Services division is investigating the incident. Both Tiglao and the other dog's owner have been interviewed.

City could euthanize the dog

According to a city spokesperson, Animal Services has yet to determine if the other dog is, in fact, a pit bull, as Tiglao and several neighbours have told CBC Toronto they believe.

"We assess the dog carefully to determine the breed, using a check list that rates the features of the breed. A determination is made based on 12 different points and at least 65 or 70 per cent of those points must be present in the breed to deem it a pit bull. More than one person does the assessment, including a veterinarian," city spokesperson Tammy Robbinson said in an email.

Pit bulls have been banned in Ontario since 2005 with the passing of the Dog Owners' Liability Act.

The law prohibits several breeds that fall under the pit bull umbrella as well as any dog "that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to" the banned breeds.

Strict restrictions, like mandatory muzzles and spaying and neutering, were placed on pit bulls that had been in Ontario before the law was passed.

Puppy owner 'not mad'

If Toronto Animal Services determines a dog is pit bull, the city can try to "rehome" it in another province. It can also kill the dog.

"Ultimately, we have to comply with the legislation, so in some cases, the dog would be euthanized," Robbinson said.

Tiglao does not want the dog put down.

"I'm not mad at them," she said. "He's a great dog. I wouldn't want the dog to die." 

She says she would support the dog being trained or having to wear a muzzle.

Mahal means love in the Tagalog language, and Tiglao says that's how she's approaching the tragedy.

"There's no vengeance. I really hope everything works out."