Woman arrested for second time this month on animal cruelty charges

dog abuse

SKY VALLEY, Calif. -

A 64-year-old Sky Valley woman was arrested today on animal cruelty charges -- for the second time this month.

Mary Bernadette Schwenn was arrested at the Indio branch of the Riverside County Law Library around 9 a.m. in connection with 30 animal cruelty-related counts filed Wednesday by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office. County Animal Services officers also seized 10 dogs today when they served an inspection warrant on Schwenn's property, District Attorney's spokesman John Hall said.

Animal Services spokesman John Welsh said the dogs are being placed in protective custody in a non-public area at one of the county's shelters.

Schwenn -- held in lieu of $50,000 bail at the county jail in Indio -- is charged with 10 felony and 20 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and failure to provide proper care or attention for animals. She is expected to be arraigned Monday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, and could face a sentence ranging from probation to nine years in custody if convicted, Hall said.

Schwenn was previously arrested on July 1 at her property on suspicion of misdemeanor animal cruelty, and posted a $2,500 bond.

The investigation into Schwenn's activities started in April, when the Animal Services department got information about more than 30 dogs living unattended 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 issued citations or told by Animal Services officers to give the dogs the proper conditions and attention, including veterinary care, ``yet she neglected to do so,'' Hall alleged.

Welsh said Schwenn was cited in the past for unlicensed dogs, failure to vaccinate and not having a proper kennel permit. Animal Services officers also monitored the property for several months and checked on the dogs.

According to a warrant in support of her July 1 arrest, one of her dogs had a uterus infection for an extended period, and had to be euthanized by a private vet in early May.

Kitty Pallesen, who has known Schwenn for at least five years, wrote in a statement to officials in May that she and others gave the woman rides when she hitchhiked from her property and gave her food for the dogs.

One day in April, Pallesen said she drove to the property and saw roughly 30 dogs ``with not a drop of water or bite of food anywhere.''

``I started going up almost every day and then every day for the past 1 1/2 weeks, because every time I went up there, the food and water would be completely gone, '' she wrote. ``There were many days in a row that it was over 100. I could not tell when I went back up that Bernadette or anyone had been there at all.''

A few weeks later, she said she went to feed the dogs because it again appeared they had not been fed or given water.

``There are not enough bowls to do this up there in the camp, and when the food goes down, there is lots of scrambling and fighting. They are really hungry, and they fight over who gets to eat first or at all,'' Pallesen wrote.

While there, she saw a female dog that looked like she was dying and took the animal to a vet.

``The doctor was there and looked at her, and he agreed that she was really in bad shape. For one thing, every time she was picked up, she was dripping blood from her bottom quite severely -- leaving a trail of blood everywhere she was carried,'' Pallesen wrote.

Welsh said Animal Services officers will 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.

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