SANTA ANA, Calif. – A Chihuahua that was tied with electrical wires and repeatedly kicked after going missing from his Southern California home has been reunited with his family, and the man accused of abusing him has been arrested.
A witness reported seeing a man abusing a small dog behind a business at 431 E. First St. on Sunday, Santa Ana Police said in a news release.
Authorities found the suspect, 28-year-old Jose Manuel Pantoja, standing over the dog. Pantoja, whom police described as a transient, was immediately taken into custody.
The dog was found with a bungee cord tied around his throat and chest and also had electrical wires around his legs, police said. The pooch had multiple injuries, including a broken pelvis, and was taken to Orange County Emergency Pet Clinic in Garden Grove.
Pantoja, 28, told officers the dog did not belong to him and that “it was just following him around,” police said.
Pantoja gave no reason for why he treated the dog badly. He was booked on suspicion of animal cruelty.
"He basically used the dog as a soccer ball," police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. He added that the suspect has a long criminal history and law enforcement officials had "dealt with him numerous times."
Investigators eventually found the Chihuahua's owners, who told police the dog had escaped their yard after someone left the gate open.
The family had been looking for their beloved “Max,” who is 10 years old, throughout the night.
Max was reunited with his family Tuesday morning. He visibly perked up when his owner walked into the room.
The dog's owner, Stephany Chavez, said she was grateful for everyone who helped him.
"I didn’t think I would see him again, but here he is," Chavez said. "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," she said. "He’s an animal, he can’t do anything to you, especially a small one like this."
A Santa Ana police sergeant said he would pay for some of the family’s pet license fee, and the pet clinic also said they'd help pay for Max's medical expenses.