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17-month-old girl doing fine after dog attacks

It was business as usual at Ada Allen's home early Monday evening. Her daughter, 17-month-old Brianna Tillery, was laughing and playing in the kitchen with her pal Dugan, a 3-year-old black and gray Labrador mix.

Then Brianna's mother turned her back for an instant.

"I heard the growling, and Dugan almost never growls, and then I turned around," Allen said, "and there was just blood coming out of my baby girl's face."

Dugan was straddling Brianna, his jaw clenched around the child's face, authorities said. Allen managed to separate the dog from her daughter and call 911.

Brianna was taken to Seven Rivers Community Hospital about 10 p.m., and Citrus County Animal Control authorities seized Dugan.

Overnight surgery and 20 stitches have left Brianna's fair complexion scarred, puffy, discolored and swathed in bandages.

Surgeons at Seven Rivers told the mother to bring her daughter back Thursday so they can examine the girl for possible scarring and nerve damage.

Tuesday afternoon, Brianna was back at it again, giggling as she played with her 3-year-old brother, Chad.

"I can't tell that anything happened," Allen said. "She's climbing on the furniture and doing everything she used to do.

"Mommy's more traumatized than she is."

The dog's owner, Kelly Krause, is Allen's roommate. Both told authorities that Dugan has always been well-behaved and the dog had a current rabies shot and a county license.

"They both stated the dog had never been aggressive toward anyone," said Citrus Sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierny.

An explanation for the attack is still being sought.

"Dugan was real gentle with her, that's why we don't understand what happened," Allen said.

In the meantime, animal control authorities will keep Dugan quarantined for 10 days while they look into the attack.

"It's still under investigation," said Animal Control director Hank Baggett.

"I never thought Dugan would do anything like this, but even the friendliest pet can turn. My own personal feelings are that I failed to protect my daughter. But if something happened to provoke it, I just don't know. Dogs and kids just don't mix."

The attack hasn't slowed down Brianna, however. Tuesday afternoon, a bandaged Brianna stepped outside and saw the neighbor's dogs. Excited, she tried to make a run for them.

"She has no fear," Allen said.

Crystal River man sentenced in abuse

Steven G. Gionti was found guilty of child abuse by a jury Tuesday afternoon, and minutes later agreed to plead guilty to one count of possession of marijuana and one count of possession of paraphernalia.

Because of Gionti's 12 previous convictions, Circuit Judge Michael Blackstone sentenced Gionti immediately. He is to spend 28 months in state prison, serve 24 months of probation, attend anger management classes, stay away from the victim and surrender the paddle he used to beat the child.

The trial began Monday and wrapped up Tuesday afternoon, as Assistant State Attorney Thomas Dickerhoof had sheriff's detectives, doctors and a psychologist testify about the attack on the 6-year-old boy by Gionti.

Gionti, of 6485 W Moss Lane in Crystal River, was dating the boy's mother at the time and was accused of severely beating the child on the buttocks with a paddle and a belt and of punching the boy. A guidance counselor at Rock Crusher Elementary School learned of the abuse from the boy.

The attack left severe bruises, scabs and cuts on the child's buttocks, authorities said.