Woman accused of dumping puppies in Coachella trash bin had 38 dogs at home, authorities say

Authorities found 38 dogs in the Coachella home of a woman arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty.
(Riverside County Department of Animal Services)

A woman seen on video dumping a plastic bag filled with seven puppies in a Coachella trash bin had 38 dogs living in her home when she was arrested, authorities said Tuesday.

Officers with the Riverside County Department of Animal Services went to 54-year-old Deborah Sue Culwell’s home on 3rd Street in Coachella on Monday to take her into custody. When they arrived, they came upon a filthy house overrun with dogs, authorities said.

Tile flooring inside was dirty and cracked, there were holes in the walls, and one of the rooms had a couch so damaged that only its wooden frame, springs and a few mangled pieces of fabric were visible, according to reports.

Officials said despite the home’s condition, most of the canines appeared to be in somewhat healthy condition. Some, however, were aggressive or fearful. The officers took the animals to the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms.


Because the dogs are considered confiscated animals, they are not available for adoption. Authorities are trying to determine which — if any — is the mother of the puppies, believed to be terrier mixes, to see whether they can reunite the canine family.

Deborah Sue Culwellwas arrested Monday after she allegedly dumped seven puppies in a dumpster.
(Riverside County Department of Animal Services)

The 3-day-old puppies were discovered in a clear bag Thursday by a man rummaging through a dumpster behind the Napa Auto Parts store at 49251 Grapefruit Blvd. The man placed the bag near the entrance of the store, where another man discovered it and took it inside, authorities said.

Surveillance video released by authorities showed a woman in a tank top and short skirt pulling up behind the store in a white Jeep Wrangler. Carrying the bag in one hand, she opens the lid of a receptacle used for recycling, peers inside and then closes it. She then tossed the bag atop an open, full trash bin next to it and drove away, authorities said.


Afternoon temperatures in Coachella that day were in the mid-90s, according to the National Weather Service.

Animal Services spokesman John Welsh said the bag containing the puppies was tied shut, and the animals had no ventilation. He said he was personally horrified that the bag was clear and that the woman would have been able to see the puppies before discarding them.

“There is no excuse for dumping puppies,” Riverside County Animal Services Cmdr. Chris Mayer said in a statement. “Especially in today’s age when we or other shelters would be willing to get these animals to foster parents or rescue partners. This was a shameful act.”

Culwell is being held in the Indio jail in lieu of $10,000 bail, according to jail records.

Twitter: @Hannahnfry


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