JOSHUA TREE (AP) — A Southern California couple was arrested on suspicion of child cruelty after deputies found them living in a cramped and filthy desert shack with their three kids and dozens of cats, authorities said Thursday.

Deputies noticed the ramshackle shelter Wednesday afternoon while conducting a check of the area near Joshua Tree east of Los Angeles, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Desert Squalor

San Bernardino County deputies arrested a couple living in this ramshackle shelter in the desert with three kids and dozens of cats. (CBS)

The dwelling cobbled together with plywood and plastic sheeting was only about 4 feet high and 10 feet wide, officials said. Two adults and three children, ages 11, 13 and 14, were living along with about 40 cats in the confined area on a property without electricity or running water, said Captain Trevis Newport.

Mounds of trash and human feces were nearby, according to a statement.

Daniel Panico, 73, and Mona Kirk, 51, could face charges including willful cruelty to a child. It wasn’t known if they have attorneys.

The county’s Department of Children and Family Services took custody of the three kids.

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