HINKLEY A Hinkley family that encountered legal trouble in 2005 because of the large number of dogs on their 20 acre property is once again facing charges.

Mardell Stovall Jr. says his family provides a shelter for dogs that have nowhere else to go, but prosecutors have filed charges of animal cruelty based on their assessment of the condition of the animals.

As Stovall walks around his property he greets every dog by name and knows all of their stories. Some were found in the street emaciated and others were dropped off by their former owners who couldn't care for them. Although all of the dogs are restrained with chains or kept in pens they appear happy and greet Stovall with smile.

Stovall is set for an arraignment on Nov. 30 for numerous charges of keeping unlicensed and unvaccinated dogs, and also faces 30 counts of animal cruelty. At Stovall's original arraignment hearing on Sept. 20 Judge Glenn Yabuno gave Stovall until Nov. 30 to obtain a kennel permit, and charges of animal cruelty as well as a warrant for his arrest were filed later the same day.

Per county code, only five or fewer cats or dogs are allowed on a property of over 20,000 square feet without a kennel permit.

Stovall's late father Mardell Stovall Sr. was found guilty of operating an illegal kennel and cattery in 2005 but the charges were later dismissed after Stovall agreed to move some of the dogs off of his property. Stovall Sr. died in July and the younger Stovall says that the dog compound is a symbol of the generosity and kind spirit of his father.

Deputy District Attorney Brieann Durose, prosecutor for the case, is currently away from her office on leave and could not be reached for comment.

Greg Beck, program manager for San Bernardino County Animal Control, said charges were based on the condition of animals that animal control officers observed when they visited Stovall's property, but would not elaborate further, citing a pending criminal case.

Stovall's sister, Cindy Downing, who lives with her brother on the property, said that she believes animal control was contacted when sheriff's deputies were in the area on an unrelated call. Sheriff's officials said they have no record of visiting the Stovall house recently but said that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Stovall said that his family provides a good home for dogs that would otherwise have to fend for themselves. He said animal control officers didn't like the fact that many of the dogs are on chains but said his dogs get plenty of exercise and access to shade.

"We just need the county to stay away," said Stovall. "These are lovable dogs ... the county is coming after us and we're doing them a favor by taking these dogs in."

Downing agrees.

"There is no reason for any of this," said Downing. "Animals shouldn't have to pay because (their original owners) can't take care of them. "I'm tired of walking on eggshells, these animals are loved and they are not unhappy."

Stovall said he is trying obtain a kennel permit and construct pens for his dogs, but doesn't currently have the money to obtain a permit. Stovall said he plans to visit the Barstow courthouse on Thursday to try and settle matters.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4126 or adome@desertdispatch.com