Santa Paula Man Arrested After Allegedly Swinging Rabbit by Ears, Setting It on Fire

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A Santa Paula man was arrested on an array of charges Saturday after police responded to a report of a man swinging a rabbit by its ears and setting the small animal on fire, authorities said.

Santa Paula police released this booking photo of Juan Lemus

Santa Paula police released this booking photo of Juan Lemus

Officers responded to the 200 block of March Street shortly before 8 a.m. after receiving a call regarding an act of animal cruelty in the area, according to the Santa Paula Police Department.

The suspect — identified as 29-year-old Juan Lemus — left the scene before police arrived; he was later caught in the 300 block of South Steckel Drive, police said.

When officers tracked him down, he told them the rabbit was already dead, and that he lit a piece of paper — not the animal — on fire, the release stated.

Police found the rabbit in a dirt lot, right next to some smoldering paper.

A veterinary technician examined and X-rayed the rabbit and determined the animal died from “blunt force trauma to the head,” according to the release.

Lemus was taken into custody, during which time police also discovered he allegedly had a methamphetamine pipe. It was later determined he was under the influence of a controlled substance at the time, authorities said.

The suspect was arrested and booked into Ventura County Jail on felony charges of animal cruelty, arson and burglary, and misdemeanor charges of being under a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to inmate records.

Lemus is being held on $50,000. He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.