MORONGO VALLEY – In what appears to be a case of animal hoarding, over 150 dogs and cats were removed by animal control officers from Paws Rescue Ranch, an unlicensed Morongo Valley animal rescue last week.
For reasons still undisclosed, San Bernardino County Animal Control officers responded to the 1.3-acre property located at 9333 Bella Vista Drive in Morongo Valley on Wednesday. When they arrived the found a deceased dog that was chained up without proper shade or water in the 110-degree temperatures.
During their visit on Wednesday animal control officers removed around 11 dogs from the property. On Friday, after obtaining a search warrant for the property the rest of the animals, which included dogs of all sizes, cats, rabbits, birds and at least one turtle were removed from the property. The animals were removed from the property various conditions, some appeared to be well cared for while others were emaciated and had visible injuries.
The rescue owner, 60-year-old Stephen Mitchell Caro was arrested at 10:00 a.m. on Friday for the possession of a tortoise inmate records show. He was cited and released just before 2:45 p.m. on Friday with no court appearances scheduled at this time. On Saturday, June 25th Caro posted to the rescue Facebook page,”Today my most important job is to get legal representation to protect the over 20 special needs animals. I was told by Christine Hamrick that it is not her department who chooses what special needs dog live or die. The vet they take them too can euthanize any dog they choose.”
All animals removed from the property were all taken for veterinary care and were subsequently taken to the already crowded local animal shelters, according to County Animal Control officials. “This is an ongoing criminal investigation regarding potential animal cruelty,” said Gina Whiteside, Director of Animal Services at the Apple Valley Animal Shelter in a written statement.
The Devore shelter received the bulk of the over 150 animals and the Apple Valley Animal Shelter received 40 dogs. Both shelters have a reason for major concern due to the fact that they were already, even before receiving these animals, nearing shelter capacity. With the 4th of July just over a week away, the shelter was already preparing for the flood of terrified pets that come in every July 4th week.
Apple Valley Animal Shelter officials are reaching out to animal rescues and to the community for help to free up some kennel space. They are asking that adoptable animals are picked up by rescues or adopted to forever homes.
Whiteside continued to warn against anyone that may have picked up animals from the property prior to animal control returning on Friday. “It has been shared on various public and private posts that dogs were removed from this property in the dark of the night. While the intentions of rescues/individuals may have been helping these dogs out of a bad situation, not reporting dogs in poor health and physical condition aids in covering up the abuse. If any of the dogs removed were in poor health and/or required immediate veterinary care, you have an obligation to report these dogs to the investigating authority. Failing to do so, could indicate that you are interfering in a criminal investigation or hiding evidence of a crime. I encourage anyone that took a dog from this property to call Animal Health Investigator, Christy Hamrick at 1-800-472-5609 (callers should ask to be routed to Investigator Hamrick’s voicemail) or e-mail her at Christy.Hamrick@dph.sbcounty.gov”
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