Owner of Akita that mauled boy arraigned

MURRIETA – A Murrieta man accused of standing by while his dog mauled a 3-year-old boy pleaded not guilty today to a felony charge.

Robert Steven Kahn, 62, was arrested last month after his 3-year-old Akita, police said, inflicted severe injuries on a toddler at a Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Murrieta.

Kahn was charged with being a negligent owner of an animal that caused great bodily injury. He appeared with his attorney today before Riverside County Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer, who scheduled a felony settlement conference in the case for March 18. Kahn remains free on $5,000 bail.

The status of his dog could not immediately be confirmed with Wildomar- based Animal Friends of the Valleys, a nonprofit that provides animal control services in Murrieta and surrounding communities. AFV impounded the Akita in early January, but there was no word on whether it was euthanized or released back to Kahn.

According to Murrieta police Lt. Tony Conrad, shortly before noon on Dec. 28, Kahn was walking with his dog through the garden center at Lowe’s, in the 24700 block of Madison Avenue, when a boy wandered away from his father to stroke the 75-pound husky-like breed.

Conrad said the dog was on a leash but lunged at the youngster and ”bit him in the head, causing significant punctures and cuts to his face.”

”The father rushed to his son’s aid and spoke with the dog’s owner, (who) apologized and then left the garden center … ultimately leaving the area,” Conrad said.

The toddler was rushed to nearby Inland Valley Medical Center, where he received 50 stitches for tears to his head, jaw, neck and around his right eye, according to Conrad, adding that because of the severity of the injuries, the child later was taken to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego for further examination.

He was released the following day.

Detectives obtained surveillance video from Lowe’s and distributed it to the public, resulting in Kahn’s identification.

According to the lieutenant, investigators learned of two additional attacks that occurred in October and November.

”In those incidents, the dog showed aggression toward young children — 3 and 5 years,” Conrad said. ”Injuries from those two incidents were less severe and did not require hospitalization.”

Riverside County District Attorney’s Office was asked if charges may be filed in the other two alleged incidents, but there was no immediate response.

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