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California

Coachella woman accused of dumping puppies pleads guilty to 14 charges

Skinny dog
Deborah Sue Culwell pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and animal abandonment. More than 35 dogs were found at her home and impounded.
(Riverside County)

A Coachella woman admitted Wednesday to dumping seven newborn puppies in a trash bin and was sentenced to several months in jail.

Deborah Sue Culwell, 59, changed her not-guilty plea to guilty on seven felony animal cruelty counts and seven misdemeanor animal abandonment charges. Judge Harold Hopp sentenced Culwell to 365 days in custody — reduced to 174 days with credit for time served — and 36 months of formal probation.

Culwell was in court for a felony settlement conference at the Larson Justice Center in Indio. She has been jailed since her first felony settlement conference in June, when her bail was increased from $10,000 to $50,000.

Culwell was arrested after security video showed her leaving a litter of 3-day-old puppies in a trash bin outside a Napa Auto Parts store at 49251 Grapefruit Blvd. on April 18. The video showed a woman with a ponytail exiting a Jeep with a plastic bag just after 1 p.m. and depositing the sealed bag in the bin, according to county Department of Animal Services spokesman John Welsh.

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A passerby rummaging through the bin about 15 minutes later found the bag full of squealing puppies, believed to be terrier mixes, Welsh said. The passerby, identified only as “John,” took the puppies into the air-conditioned store. With the temperature climbing above 90 degrees, Welsh said he doubted the newborns would have survived very long in the bin.

One of the animals, described as the runt of the litter, died days later.

Culwell was arrested April 22 after animal control officers served an arrest warrant at her Third Street residence and impounded 38 dogs found on the property. She subsequently surrendered ownership of the animals, which appeared to be terrier mixes ranging from 1 to 5 years old.


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