SANTA PAULA ( —  Authorities said a Santa Paula man has been arrested on animal cruelty charges after allegedly setting fire to a rabbit.

Santa Paula police officers were dispatched to the area of the 200 block of March Street around 7:50 a.m. Saturday responding to a call about a man swinging a rabbit around by its ears and then lighting it on fire.

Witnesses said the male suspect fled the area on a bicycle.

Officers located a man nearby who matched the suspect’s description in the 300 block of S. Steckel Dr.

The subject was identified as Juan Lemus, 29.

Lemus reportedly told officers that he found a rabbit in the street and it was already deceased. Lemus also told officers that he lit a piece of paper on fire, and not the rabbit.

The rabbit was later found in a dirt lot, lying next to a pile of smouldering paper. The rabbit was transported to SPARC for evaluation. The veterinary technicians examined and X-rayed the rabbit. They determined the rabbit died from  blunt force trauma to the head.

Lemus was taken into custody for animal cruelty, arson, and burglary. While being taken into custody, Lemus was found to be in possession of a methamphetamine pipe, and was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

In addtion, after being evaluated, Lemus was also found to be under the influence. He was also arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance.

After processing, Lemus was later transported to Ventura County Main Jail.

The Santa Paula Police Department wanted to publicly thank the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center for their assistance in the case.

If anyone has information regarding a missing rabbit, please contact Det. Sgt. Madison at (805) 525-4474 x220

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