A man in California was arrested after police allegedly found him repeatedly kicking a tiny Chihuahua, even describing him as using the dog as a "soccer ball." The dog has since been reunited with his family and is recovering from his injuries.
Police in Santa Ana arrested Jose Manuel Pantoja, 28, after receiving a call about an animal being abused in the area on March 3. The caller said that a dog had been bound with electrical wire and was being attacked.
Pantoja was taken into custody without incident, according to a release from the Santa Ana Police Department.
Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police noted Pantoja's extensive criminal background and described his latest crime.
"He basically used the dog as a soccer ball," Bertagna told KTLA.
The animal, who had multiple visible injuries including a broken pelvis, was transported to the Orange County Emergency Pet Clinic for treatment.
Pantoja later told police that the dog did not belong to him and had been following him around.
One day later, police were able to locate the dog's owners. The family, who was described as "distraught," had been looking for their lost pet throughout the night.
Max, the 13-year-old Chihuahua, was returned to his family on Tuesday. Stephany Chavez, who has cared for Max since he was a puppy, was relieved to have him back home.
“I didn’t think I would see him again, but here he is,” said Chavez. “I’m just glad he’s OK and he’s not any worse than this. ... To think that someone would do that, it’s just very upsetting, it’s not right. He’s an animal, he can’t do anything to you, especially a small one like this.”
A police officer and the clinic who cared for the animal have agreed to help pay for some of the costs of the pooch's medical bills and licensing fees.
An Instagram video posted by the Santa Ana Police Department shows Max being happily returned to his family.
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