The operator of a pet rescue facility has been arrested on nearly two dozen felony counts of cruelty to animals, authorities said Monday.
Stephen Caro, 60, the owner of Paws Pet Ranch in the sweltering Mojave Desert, faces 21 charges and is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office told InsideEdition.com.
He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.
Animal control officers had earlier seized 180 dogs and two cats, all of them suffering from neglect, according to authorities. The cats and 10 dogs were in such poor health they had to be put down, according to prosecutors.
Photos shared by the Hi-Desert Star show the dogs -- some of them with thick, matted fur -- being removed from the property.
“This was a situation in which the defendant misled the public into thinking the money they were donating was being used to care for the dogs at his pet rescue,” said District Attorney Mike Ramos in a statement. “Unfortunately, the conditions the animals were forced to live in were absolutely deplorable.”
According to the criminal complaint, Caro caused “needless suffering” by failing to provide water, food or shelter. Average temperatures in the area for August hover in the high 90s.
Many of the animals removed from the desert outpost were emaciated and had matted, urine-soaked coats, according to local reports. One dog had died while chained to a post, the reports said.
County animal control officers have been successful in placing many of the animals and are working to find homes for the rest, said the D.A.’s office.