NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A 7-year-old girl was mauled by a dog on the Upper West Side Thursday afternoon.

Police say she was attacked while trying to help out the dog’s owner.

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Witnesses who spoke to CBS2’s Ali Bauman struggled to even describe what they saw because the attack, they said, was so gruesome and disturbing.

Thomas Nardini was passing by 79th Street on Broadway just before 4 p.m. when police say a mother handed her 7-year-old daughter a $1 bill to give to a homeless woman who was sitting on the sidewalk with her dog.

“There’s a lady that often is there with her pit bull and every time I walk by with the dogs, the dog growls,” he said.

When the child placed the dollar down, police say the dog jumped up.

“The pit bull grabs her by the face and pulls her away. The woman doesn’t have control of the dog. That little girl is flopping around. I mean, it was awful,” Nardini said.

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Nardini says the dog dragged the little girl by her face before bystanders were able to pry the dog off.

“By the time I got there, they were managing to separate them. The woman, everybody by this point is jumping in, trying to, you know, shrieking and carrying on. It’s the worst, the worst of the worst,” he said.

When police arrived, witnesses say they didn’t even wait to call an ambulance. Instead, officers covered the child’s wounds and rushed her to a hospital themselves.

“The worst, horrific thing has happened here,” Nardini said.

The child remained at the hospital Thursday night. Authorities say she is expected to be OK but will likely need extensive cosmetic surgery.

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The dog was taken by animal care and control and is currently being tested for rabies. Its owner was taken into police custody for questioning but has been released and is not facing any charges.