COACHELLA — During the arrest of a woman suspected of dumping seven puppies behind a Coachella business last week,  Riverside County Animal Services personnel discovered the woman’s house was overrun with dogs.

38 Dogs Impounded After Woman's Arrest

Deborah Sue Culwell

On Monday afternoon, April 22, animal control officers worked past 8 p.m. at Deborah Sue Culwell’s residence because the house was overrun with other dogs.

Officers loaded 38 dogs from her home and transported them to the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms. Most of the dogs appeared to be in somewhat healthy condition, but some were aggressive or fearful, according to John Welsh, public information officer for the Riverside County Department of Animal Services.

“The house was in a state of disrepair,” Welsh said in a prepared statement.

Since the dogs are considered “confiscated animals,” they are not available for adoption at this time. The mother dog of the dumped puppies may have been one of the 38 dogs impounded, according to Welsh.

Animal Services will determine whether a reunion can be coordinated.

Commander Chris Mayer of Animal Services served the arrest warrant at about 5:30 p.m. on April 22, at the woman’s residence on Third Street in Coachella.

Culwell, 54, of Coachella was handcuffed and transported to a jail in Indio for official booking.

She faces up to seven felony counts of animal cruelty.

Animal Services learned of the suspected puppy dumping after an employee with a Napa Auto Parts store in Coachella contacted the department. On April 18, a good Samaritan discovered the dogs inside a clear, plastic bag near the top of a Dumpster. The man placed the bag near the entrance of the Napa Auto Parts, where a second man discovered it and took it inside the store, located at 49251 Grapefruit Blvd.

Animal Services Officer Jose Cisneros responded shortly before 2 p.m. and collected a trash bag, which contained seven puppies. All of the newborns pups were approximately 3 days old and were believed to be terrier mixes.

The pups were placed in foster care shortly thereafter and all remain alive. A volunteer, Noni Boen Schirm is bottle-feeding the pups and posts regular updates on Facebook.

38 Dogs Impounded After Woman's Arrest

Newborn puppies dumped in a trash container to die are doing well.

Employees at the Napa store were extremely helpful in the investigation, Welsh said. Cisneros requested to review surveillance footage and the Napa employees obliged. The officer watched one camera’s clear images showcasing the actions of the woman. Just after 1 p.m. on Thursday, a woman in a white Jeep pulled up, exited, and tossed a bag into a trash Dumpster.


Image Sources

  • Deborah Sue Culwell: Riverside County Department of Animal Services
  • Puppies: YouTube
  • 38 Dogs Impounded: Riverside County Department of Animal Services