Coachella puppy dumper pleads guilty

Sentenced to 7 years probation, 365 days jail

INDIO, Calif.- - A woman accused of dumping seven puppies near a dumpster in Coachella pled guilty in Indio court today.
Deborah Sue Culwell, 54, was first arrested in April for the alleged crime. Surveillance footage showed her exiting a white Jeep behind the NAPA Auto Parts store in Coachella then throwing a bag in the direction of a dumpster. She was arrested after the surveillance video gained traction publicly.

At the Larson Justice Center on Wednesday, she entered a guilty plea for all counts. She did not reach a plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, according to DA public information officer John Hall. 

The judge sentenced her to 365 days in county jail, 275 to be spent in custody, 90 on work release. She was also sentenced to seven years of formal probation. The terms of the formal probation include a prohibition from owning or possessing animals as well as other prohibition listed in CA penal code section 597.


Read CA Penal code section 597 below:

She could have received a maximum prison sentence of six years, but that sentence tends to be rare with these cases, Hall told News Channel 3 last month. 

During court proceedings in July, the judge reduced Culwell's bail from $50,000 to $40,000, ordered her to not have dogs in her possession, and also decided that Animal Control would have the right to come to inspect her property on a monthly basis without notice.

Culwell has remained in custody, court records show, since her first felony settlement conference last month, during which a judge increased her bail -- at the request of prosecutors -- from $10,000 to $50,000.

The puppies were rescued when passerby rummaged through the bin about 15 minutes later and found the bag full of squealing puppies, believed to be terrier mixes, he said. One later died. 

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