More than three dozen dogs seized from a Coachella woman suspected of trying to kill days-old puppies found in a dumpster were under the care of Riverside County Department of Animal Services personnel Tuesday, while the suspect remains jailed in lieu of $10,000 bail.
Deborah Sue Culwell, 54, was booked into the Indio Jail late Monday afternoon on multiple allegations of felony animal cruelty.
Thirty-eight canines from Culwell’s Third Street residence were impounded after animal control officers served an arrest warrant at the property and took her into custody without incident.
Department of Animal Services spokesman John Welsh said all of the dogs are receiving veterinary attention, and the seven puppies rescued from the dumpster appear to be healthy.
The pups have not been reunited with their mother, mainly because that particular dog has not been identified among those seized from the suspect’s property, where “several of the dogs impounded appeared to have possibly had recent litters,” Welsh said.
He said the matter is further complicated by the fact that all of the animals are under “protective custody,” making them temporary wards of the county if and until Culwell is legally stripped of ownership.
“We cannot remove a dog from protective custody to nurse,” Welsh said.
The 3-day-old puppies were tied into a plastic bag and dropped into the recycling bin behind a Napa Auto Parts store at 49251 Grapefruit Blvd. last Thursday, Welsh said.
Security surveillance video from the location showed a woman with a ponytail in a short skirt exiting a Jeep with a plastic bag just after 1 p.m., depositing the sealed bag in the dumpster. The woman was ultimately identified as Culwell, according to Welsh.
A passerby rummaged through the bin about 15 minutes later and found the bag full of squealing puppies, believed to be terrier mixes, Welsh said. The passerby, identified only as “John,” quickly took the puppies into the air-conditioned store.
As the mercury climbed above 90 degrees, Welsh doubted the newborns would have survived very long without the intercession.
An animal control officer described the good Samaritan’s actions as “humane and heroic.”
Welsh said the Department of Animal Services intends to seek a criminal complaint against Culwell.
If convicted of seven felony animal cruelty counts, she could face up to six years in jail, according to District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Hall.
However, Welsh acknowledged that jail time in a cruelty case is rare. Most result in terms of probation and fines.
Anyone with information relevant to the investigation was urged to call the Department of Animal Services at 951-358-7387.