A quarantined Akita that bit a toddler in a Murrieta home improvement store was released to the custody of a rescue organization this week.
Chester, a 3-year-old neutered male purebred, had been held at Animal Friends of the Valleys’ shelter in Wildomar since the Dec. 28, 2013 incident at Lowe’s in Murrieta.
“We tested his temperament and we chose not to euthanize him,” said Monique Middleton, the animal control officer who handled the case.
Severe bite injuries to the neck, jaw and face sent the victim, a 3-year-old boy, to the hospital, but Middleton said Friday that he was healing. His parents declined to speak with media, she said.
Criminal charges are still pending against the owner of the dog, Robert Steven Kahn, 62, of Murrieta, according to John Hall of the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
Kahn was walking the Akita inside the garden area of Lowe’s, 24701 Madison Ave. in Murrieta the morning of Dec. 28, 2013.
The dog was on a leash but lunged at the boy, biting his head, according to Murrieta police.
Kahn allegedly walked out of the garden area immediately after the incident occurred.
Store management called police to the scene, and surveillance video of the man and his dog was disseminated to media in an effort to locate him.
Meanwhile, the boy was transported to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego to be treated for his injuries.
Kahn was contacted by police the next day, at which point he turned the dog over to animal control for a mandatory quarantine period of 10 days.
Over a period of a few days, detectives discovered that the dog had bitten two other young children in recent months, according to Murrieta police Lt. Tony Conrad.
Kahn was arrested and jailed on suspicion of willfully causing bodily injury by animal, which is a felony. He was released the same day on $5,000 bond.
Middleton said that based on the dog’s history while under the care of Kahn, he should not be released back to his custody.
“One of those previous incidents happened in another business,” Middleton said. “So it was irresponsible for him to the dog into another business.”
She said he did the wise thing by turning the dog over to their custody.
“If he didn’t want to turn his dog over, then I would have taken him to court...I think he realized toward the end that he had a choice to possibly save his dog’s life,” Middleton said.
She said the rescue organization—A Passion For Paws in Romoland—will seek to find the right home for Chester, one where there are no children.
“The person who adopts him from the rescue will need to understand this breed...They do bite children," Middleton said.