The puppy was one of seven who were allegedly dropped into a clear, plastic bag and tossed into a dumpster behind a Napa Auto Parts store in Coachella last Thursday

By Joelle Goldstein
April 25, 2019 07:20 PM
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One of the seven puppies who was found inside of a closed plastic bag in a Coachella Valley dumpster last week has sadly died.

In a statement on Facebook, Riverside County Animal Services (RCAS) announced that the puppy who died was believed to be the runt of the litter and had suffered a great deal of trauma from being at the bottom of the bag in the dumpster.

The puppies’ foster Noni Boen Schirm also shared the sad news in a post on Facebook Thursday, noting how heartbroken she was to lose the young pup, who she believed served as a “cushion” to save his siblings.

“i lost the little tiny runt yesterday… my heart is so broken,” she wrote. “he was just so weak and held on for as long as he could 😭 when i got him he was pale and kind of flat looking, so i think he was the cushion that saved his siblings.”

“as the lady threw them in the bag, i think he was at the bottom and took the hit when all of his siblings landed on him,” she continued. “i gave it everything i had in me, but he never grew. he never recovered. i wanted so much for him to make it and we all were rooting for him.”

The foster also shared that the other six puppies were doing well and she hoped that they would “hold on and keep thriving.”

Meanwhile, RCAS explained that the other 38 dogs that were discovered inside the Coachella home of Deborah Sue Culwell (the woman authorities believe dumped the puppies into the dumpster) are still “being cared for by the veterinary team & animal care technicians at our Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms.”

“All 38 received thorough examinations by one of our staff veterinarians and no serious ailments were reported,” the statement read.

RCAS also said the six puppies’ mother has not yet been determined, as many of the female dogs found inside of Culwell’s residence appeared to have had recent litters.

Coachella Puppies
The puppies

According to a Facebook post by RCAS, the woman, who authorities now believe is Culwell, 55, dumped the puppies at about 1 p.m. last Thursday behind a Napa Auto Parts store in Coachella.

Soon after, a passerby rummaged through the trash, found the bag and brought it into the store. An employee at the store then contacted Animal Services, and authorities learned the bag contained seven puppies.

The puppies were about three days old and are believed to be terrier mixes, according to the Facebook post.

“If not for the Good Samaritan’s actions, the puppies may not have survived much longer,” the post stated. “The mid-day temperatures in Coachella on Thursday were in the mid-90s range.”

“There is no excuse for dumping puppies,” the post continued. “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.”

On late Monday afternoon, Riverside County Animal Services arrested Culwell at her home, RCAS Senior Public Information Specialist John Welsh confirmed to PEOPLE.

While they were in her home, authorities allegedly found the other 38 dogs. “We were uncertain who would care for the dogs after she was arrested,” RCAS told PEOPLE in an email, “so we were forced to impound all 38.”

The dogs were in what appeared to be fair condition, although some had some skin issues and exhibited aggressive or fearful temperaments, Animal Services said.

“This woman’s alleged actions showed total disregard to those seven newborns,” Animal Services Commander Chris Mayer said in a statement. “The 38 dogs found at her home were not in conditions consistent with responsible pet ownership.”

Welsh said the dogs will be moved to placed for adoption if Culwell relinquishes ownership of the impounded dogs. “She needs to sign over the dogs to county, he said via email. “She has 10 days to do so; then we can legally be allowed to have a disposition (adopt, transfer to rescue) for each dog.”

As of Thursday, Culwell had yet to relinquish ownership of the dogs.

Deborah Sue Culwell mugshot
Deborah Sue Culwell
| Credit: Riverside County Sheriff's Department

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Culwell was held at Indio Jail until she posted $10,000 bail on Tuesday. She was charged with seven counts of felony animal cruelty and four counts of misdemeanor abandoning animals, according to inmate records.

Culwell is scheduled to appear in court at Indio Larson Justice Center on June 18. At this time, it is unclear why she allegedly tossed the bag of puppies into the dumpster.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Culwell has retained a lawyer to comment on her behalf.

RCAS says Culwell has refused to speak with investigators, but authorities are continuing to investigate the case.