BARSTOW Mardell Stovall, who keeps approximately 70 dogs on his property in Hinkley, was arrested along with his sister Cindy Downing at the Barstow Courthouse Thursday morning on animal cruelty charges.

Stovall said that he takes in strays and other unwanted dogs for a better life at his rural 20 acre spread on State Highway 58, but prosecutors filed charges based on reports of county animal control officers.

The Stovall family was in legal trouble previously when Stovall's late father, Mardell Stovall Sr., was found guilty of operating an illegal kennel or cattery in 2005. A judge dismissed the charges after Stovall reduced the number of animals on his property.

Brieann Durose, prosecutor for the case, is currently on leave and could not be reached for comment.

San Bernardino County Animal Control Program Manager Greg Beck said that charges were filed based on the condition of animals that county officers observed, but would not elaborate citing a pending criminal case.

Downing said that animal control officers who visited the property didn't like the fact that many of the dogs were restrained with chains.

Stovall and Downing's sister, Rebecca Banuelos, who lives in Riverside, said she was shocked when she heard the news of her sibling's arrest Thursday morning, and that Stovall and Downing need to be home to assist their other siblings who suffer from a blood disorder at the property.

"There is nothing cruel going on (at the property), there is no cruelty," said Banuelos. "The only cruelty is from county officials."

Currently, Stovall faces 30 counts of animal cruelty as well as numerous violations of county code for possessing unvaccinated and unlicensed dogs.

Stovall and Downing were booked into the Barstow Sheriff's jail Thursday morning in lieu of $100,000 bail each and transferred to West Valley Detention Center that afternoon.

Stovall and Downing have a pre-preliminary hearing scheduled for Nov. 3 at the Barstow courthouse. Officials from the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office were unable to provide an estimated sentence if Stovall and Downing are convicted.

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(760) 256-4126 or adome@desertdispatch.com