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'Dog Camp' Owner Pleads Not Guilty to Animal Cruelty Charges

The so-called "dog camp" located near Thousand Palms allegedly had several animals living in filth, according to animal services authorities.

Mary Bernadette Schwenn was arrested at the Indio branch of the Riverside County Law Library on Thursday on 30 animal cruelty-related counts filed Wednesday by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.
Mary Bernadette Schwenn was arrested at the Indio branch of the Riverside County Law Library on Thursday on 30 animal cruelty-related counts filed Wednesday by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.

A 64-year-old Sky Valley woman pleaded not guilty Monday to animal cruelty charges for allegedly neglecting dogs on her property.

Mary Bernadette Schwenn was arrested at the Indio branch of the Riverside County Law Library on Thursday on 30 animal cruelty-related counts filed Wednesday by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.

Schwenn entered the pleas at her arraignment Monday afternoon at her arraignment at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, and was ordered back Thursday for a bail review hearing.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Johnson kept her bail at $50,000, and ordered her not to possess or have contact with animals if she posts bail before the hearing. Johnson also dismissed municipal code violations against Schwenn at the request of Deputy Public Defender Joe Forth, citing lack of prosecution.

County Animal Services officers seized 10 dogs on Schwenn's property Thursday, District Attorney's spokesman John Hall said. Animal Services spokesman John Welsh said the dogs were in protective custody in a non-public area at one of the county's shelters.

Schwenn is charged with 10 felony and 20 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and failure to provide proper care or attention for animals. She could face a sentence ranging from probation to nine years in custody if convicted, Hall said.

Schwenn also was arrested on July 1 at her property on suspicion of misdemeanor animal cruelty and posted a $2,500 bond. She is facing two misdemeanor counts in that case.

The investigation into Schwenn's activities started in April, when the Animal Services department got information about more than 30 dogs living on Schwenn's property near Thousand Palms Canyon and Dillon roads.

"During the subsequent investigation, numerous puppies and adult dogs were found to be either suffering or deceased," Hall said.

Schwenn was ticketed or told by Animal Services officers to treat the dogs humanely or get them veterinary care, "yet she neglected to do so," Hall said.

Welsh said Schwenn have been ticketed for having unlicensed dogs without required  vaccinations and not having a kennel permit. Animal Services officers monitored the property for several months, Hall said.

According to her July 1 arrest warrant, one of her dogs had an infection and was euthanized in May, authorities said.

Welsh said that Animal Services officers would keep checking Schwenn's property for dogs.

"The property does not have proper fencing and, for years, the dogs have been allowed to freely roam the open desert," he said.


– City News Service.

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