The incident, which was caught on surveillance video, occurred at the business located on the 24700 block of Madison Avenue around 11:47 a.m. Saturday. Police say the child was in the garden center with an adult family member while his father was shopping nearby. The Akita was with his owner on a leash near the child.
Investigators say the boy apparently went to pet the dog when the dog bit the child in the face and neck area. The dog's owner, identified as 62-year-old Robert Kahn, apologized and left the area before police arrived.
The toddler was transported to Inland Valley Region Medical Center for treatment, which included 50 stitches. The child was transferred to Rady's Children Hospital in San Diego for additional treatment, and then released on Sunday.
After further investigation, detectives found that Kahn and his dog were involved in two other incidents in which the dog showed aggression toward young children, but injuries from those incidents were less severe and did not require hospitalization, police said. Both incidents happened in Murrieta between October and November 2013.
Kahn was arrested on Thursday for willful cause of bodily injury by animal and booked at the Southwest Detention Center. The dog remains quarantined.
The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information was urged to contact Detective Jeremy Durrant at (951) 461-6354.