The owner an Akita dog that bit a 3-year-old boy at Lowe’s in Murrieta, causing the boy to be hospitalized, was arrested Thursday.
Robert Steven Kahn, 62, of Murrieta, was booked into Southwest Detention Center on suspicion of willfully causing bodily injury by animal, a felony, according to Murrieta police Lt. Tony Conrad.
Kahn's identity was not immediately known because he allegedly took his dog and fled the scene of the incident that was reported at about 11:40 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 28 in the garden center of Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, 24701 Madison Ave.
Through surveillance images distributed to media, he was located Sunday and interviewed by Murrieta police detectives. Animal Friends of the Valleys responded to the man’s home and took the Akita into custody that same day, according to police.
Conrad said the decision to arrest Kahn was made after detectives—over the course of three days—discovered two prior incidents in which the dog was suspected of showing aggression toward young children.The previous incidents allegedly occurred during October and November of 2013 in Murrieta and involved two children, one 3 years old and the other 5 years old, the lieutenant said.
“Injuries from those two incidents were less severe and did not require hospitalization,” Conrad said. “They were not reported to the police department or animal control at the time they occurred.”
The dog remains quarantined at Animal Friends of the Valleys in Wildomar, Patch confirmed Thursday.
It was to remain in protective custody for 10 days following the incident, according to Willa Bagwell, executive director of AFV, which is contracted to provide animal control services for the City of Murrieta.
Bagwell indicated that what happens to the dog after that would depend on court proceedings.
“Right now nothing has been set up,” Bagwell said.
The boy suffered puncture wounds to his neck, jaw and face during Saturday’s attack. He was transported to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar before being transferred to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego for further treatment, including several stitches, police said. He is recovering from his injuries after being released from the hospital the next day.
Jail records indicated Kahn was arrested at around 11 a.m. Thursday at a residence on Madison Avenue, not far from Lowe's. He was released from jail Thursday afternoon by posting $5,000 bond, with a tentative court date set for Feb. 27.
According to Conrad, Murrieta police have submitted the charges to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, which will make the ultimate decision about whether to prosecute Kahn for a crime.
Animal Control Officer Monique Middleton told City News Service that "it will be up to the District Attorney's Office or the police department regarding what to do with the dog."
"He could be euthanized or placed with a (canine) rescue organization," Middleton said.
"After that, it will be up to the District Attorney's Office or the police department regarding what to do with the dog," Middleton said. "He could be euthanized or placed with a (canine) rescue organization."
A spokesperson for Lowe's told Patch following the incident that the only animals permitted inside its stores are service animals. Signs indicating that rule are posted at the front entrance of stores, according to Lowe's Spokeswoman Karen Cobb.
The dog was on a leash but lunged at the youngster and "bit him in the head," Conrad said.
"The father rushed to his son's aid and spoke with the dog's owner, (who) apologized and then left the garden center and into the parking lot of Lowe's, ultimately leaving the area," Conrad said.
Anyone with further information related to the case, such as witnesses or additional dog bite victims, were encouraged to contact Detective Jeremy Durrant by calling 951-461-6354.
—City News Service contributed to this report.