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After surveillance video captured a woman tossing a plastic bag filled with 7 newborn puppies in a dumpster behind a Coachella auto parts store went viral, authorities have made an arrest in the case.
An employee with the Coachella, California Napa Auto Parts store contacted Riverside County Animal Services after a passerby discovered a bag containing 7 newborn puppies next to a dumpster behind the store on Thursday, April 18.
The puppies, believed to be terrier-mixes, were guessed to be approximately 3 days old when they were tossed in the trash.
Officer Jose Cisneros responded to the call and asked to review the store’s surveillance footage. That’s where the woman was spotted pulling up the the dumpster in a white Jeep Wrangler and quickly tossing the bag before pulling away. Thankfully, a passerby rummaging through the trash within an hour of the dogs being dumped found the bag and brought it inside the store. The mid-day temperatures in Coachella on Thursday were in the mid-90s, making it unlikely the pups would have survived if not found so quickly.
Miraculously, all 7 puppies survived. Animal Services’ veterinary team members cared for the puppies along with a rescue group partner organization to take over bottle feeding duties. MeoowzResQ, a Southern California-based organization specializing in kitten and cat rescue and fostering, agreed to accept the pups.
On Monday, officers arrested Deborah Sue Culwell, 54, at her Coachella home. Culwell is facing up to seven counts of felony animal cruelty. She could spend up to 6 years in jail if convicted.
During the arrest, officers recovered an additional 38 dogs from Culwell’s home. In Coachella, a resident must have special permits in place to house more than 4 pets.
“There is no excuse for dumping puppies,” Commander Chris Mayer said. “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.”