INDIO (CNS) - A Coachella woman suspected of dumping seven newborn puppies in a recycling bin and hoarding more than three dozen dogs on her property was free on $10,000 bail today.
Deborah Sue Culwell, 54, was booked into the Indio Jail late Monday afternoon on suspicion of felony animal cruelty and posted bail Tuesday, according to jail records.
Thirty-eight canines from Culwell's Third Street residence were impounded after animal control officers served an arrest warrant and took her into custody.
Department of Animal Services spokesman John Welsh said all of the dogs are receiving veterinary attention, and the seven puppies rescued from the bin appear to be healthy.
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 bin. 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.”
Now that she has bailed out of jail, Culwell has a legal right to request that the impounded dogs be returned to her, Welsh said, but he called the chances of such a request being granted “slim.” Welsh said it would be in Culwell's best interest financially to immediately relinquish custody of the animals, otherwise she would be responsible for the costs already incurred for boarding and caring for them.
If the dogs are legally relinquished, animal services will be able to put the dogs up for adoption.
The 38 dogs will undergo a veterinary examination so officials can better evaluate their overall health, Welsh said. Preliminary exams appear to indicate that some of the canines are inbred.
The seven puppies rescued from the recycling bin have not been reunited with their mother. Welsh said several of the dogs found at Culwell's home appeared to have recently had litters, but it was unclear which one is the puppies' mother.
Welsh said the Department of Animal Services intends to push for criminal charges 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. But Welsh acknowledged that jail time in a cruelty case is rare, with most offenders receiving probation and fines.
Anyone with information relevant to the investigation was urged to call the Department of Animal Services at 951-358-7387.