A court has heard how a little girl of five was attacked by a West Highland terrier, leaving her with horrific facial injuries requiring plastic surgery.
The dog attacked the girl in Torquay, clamping its jaws around her head.
The child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was lucky not to lose an eye, nurses said.
Natalie Mitchell, 42, the dog's owner, admitted owning a dog which was dangerously out of control in public and caused injury.
Prosecutor Karen Ball said the girl had been playing with the dog before it turned on her.
"Witnesses believe a piece of food had been thrown under a table. The girl had been playing with him before the incident and went under the table to pat the dog," Ms Ball told the court.
"We can surmise that the dog was protecting its food."
Witnesses heard the girl scream and rushed to her aid, where she was found with blood dripping from her cheek and the dog's jaws clamped on the back of her head.
"A woman tried to get him off the young girl but the dog would not let go," Ms Ball said, adding that a man then prised the dog off.
The court heard that the dog had bitten a two-year-old girl just three weeks before the attack on the five-year-old.
This is South Devon reports that magistrates banned Natalie Mitchell from owning a dog for three years. The court heard that she made the 'difficult decision' to have the dog, Max, put down.