A Lawrence man charged with felony animal cruelty for the killing of a pet rabbit made a brief appearance Tuesday in Douglas County District Court.
Austin Newport, 22, appeared with his attorney, Jerry Wells, who asked District Court Judge Robert Fairchild to reschedule Newport's preliminary hearing until Jan. 16.
Newport is the first person to be charged in Douglas County under a new law that makes animal cruelty a felony in some cases. A police report alleged that on July 27 he put "Melvin" the lop-eared bunny - a pet he shared with his roommate - in a plastic bag, tried to break its neck and tried to cut it because he didn't think he could care for it anymore and wanted to eat it.
It later died at a veterinarian's office.
Newport acknowledged in an interview that he made a mistake but said he wasn't acting maliciously.
The case caught the interest of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which sent a letter to Dist. Atty. Charles Branson urging him to push for a "meaningful period of incarceration."