Woman Arrested After Video of Her Allegedly Tossing Bag Full of Puppies Into Dumpster Goes Viral
California authorities have arrested the woman who they believe was captured on surveillance camera disposing of a bag full of puppies near a dumpster behind a store.
On late Monday afternoon, Riverside County Animal Services arrested Deborah Sue Culwell, 55, at her home in Coachella, RCAS’ Senior Public Information Specialist John Welsh confirms to PEOPLE.
While at Culwell’s house, authorities also discovered approximately 30 dogs inside, who were all taken into custody and are currently being cared for at a shelter in Thousand Palms, Welsh says.
Meanwhile, the puppies who were found in the dumpster are “doing well” and with a fosterer in the Inland Empire who can properly care for and bottle-feed them. In a new video shared by RCAS, they are seen happily snuggling together.
Culwell is currently being held at a jail in Coachella Valley, Welsh says. At this time, it is unclear why Culwell allegedly tossed the bag of puppies into the dumpster and what specific charges she faces.
A lawyer for Culwell could not immediately be found.
For her alleged actions, Welsh tells PEOPLE that the RCAS is confident Culwell will receive multiple charges for animal cruelty, which he says could result in 2-6 years in prison with a possibility of $20,000.
“We do feel strongly that this rises to a felony of animal cruelty and when we submit our case to the District Attorney’s office, we do believe we’ll be successful in pursuing seven counts of animal cruelty,” he explains.
According to a Facebook post by Riverside County Animal Services, the woman, who authorities now believe is Culwell, dumped the puppies at about 1 p.m. last Thursday behind a Napa Auto Parts store in Coachella.
In the surveillance video accompanying the post, the woman can be seen driving up in a Jeep and dropping a clear, plastic bag next to the dumpster.
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.
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The puppies were about three days old and are believed to be terrier mixes, according to the release.
“If not for the Good Samaritan’s actions, the puppies may not have survived much longer,” the release stated. “The mid-day temperatures in Coachella on Thursday were in the mid-90s range.”
“There is no excuse for dumping puppies,” the release 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.”
Welsh also made sure to recognize the man who heard the puppies in the dumpster and sought help.
“Two elements that made this extra egregious was that the bag was tied shut and it was a clear bag, so you can’t say, ‘Oh I thought I was throwing out my curlers,'” he explains to PEOPLE.
“The bag being tied shut on a day where temperatures were in the mid-90s in Coachella — the likelihood that those pups would’ve survived if not for that passerby would’ve been impossible, if not for that person recognizing that something was wrong,” he says. “I think the puppies were yelping or crying and that’s what attracted him to the trash can.”
“Folks were really shocked by the total disregard for the puppies’ lives,” Welsh adds.