Despite the fact that animal rights legislation has dramatically improved and animal cruelty has become more heavily punished, many offenders still fail to grasp the simple fact that animals can experience pain and joy just like humans.
Unfortunately, a recent case from Coachella, California, shows how much work remains to be done in educating people and changing attitudes. A woman stands accused of horrible cruelty and neglect to over 40 dogs, and the story shocked people around the state and in court.
Deborah Sue Culwell has been charged with seven counts of felony animal cruelty and seven counts of misdemeanor abandoning animals.
It all started on April 18, 2019, when an anonymous man was putting materials into a trash bin next to an auto parts store in Coachella. What he found inside the bin was shocking: a plastic bag with seven newborn puppies inside. The afternoon was hot with high temperatures in the 90s, and the puppies were in grave danger.
The man took the puppies, which were only 3 days old, inside to the store, which was air conditioned. When surveillance camera footage was checked, a woman was seen dropping the puppies into the bin just 15 minutes before, as reported by NBC Los Angeles.
As Riverside County Animal Services (RCAS) said in a press release, quoted by People: “If not for the Good Samaritan’s actions, the puppies may not have survived much longer.” Who could have done such a cruel thing and why? “In today’s age, [RCAS] or other shelters would be willing to get these animals to foster parents or rescue partners.”
The lawyer for a Coachella woman suspected of dumping seven newborn puppies in the trash drew gasps in the courtroom…
“This was a shameful act,” RCAS asserted. The suspected dumper, caught on camera, is Deborah Sue Calwell, age 54, who was taken into custody on April 22 and charged with animal cruelty, which is a felony in California. When police went to her residence, what they found was almost as horrific as the inside of the trash bin, where days-old dogs were roasting in a plastic bag in the desert sun.
Calwell had hoarded over 38 dogs in her house, which was “in a state of disrepair,” according RCAS officers, quoted in the Desert Sun. These dogs “were living in crammed quarters” as RCAS wrote on their Facebook page. “If you notice their eyes, many of them appear very nervous. They’re not used to being handled with love, nor do many know how to walk on a leash.”
Culwell Case Update (and a new, cute photo collage from the foster mom of the dumped pups):Owner Relinquishes 38 Dogs…
When the time came for Culwell’s bail hearing, which was originally set at $10,000, prosecutors asked the judge to raise it, given the seriousness of her crimes and the large number of dogs she had caused serious harm to. Her lawyer had the audacity to argue that “puppies aren’t people,” as reported by the Desert Sun; thus, her actions shouldn’t be punished as severely.
This inflamed people in the courtroom, who audibly gasped when the defense brought this argument out. The judge evidently agreed as he raised Culwell’s bail to $50,000. Just a few days after the hearing, the runt of the litter that Culwell was accused of having dumped passed away in foster care.
The incredible RCAS volunteer who took the puppies home, Noni Boen Schirm, did everything she could to save him, but after a brief and traumatic start to life, he couldn’t survive. “I lost the little tiny runt yesterday… my heart is so broken. he was just so weak and held on for as long as he could 😭”, she shared with RCAS.
#Crime: Riverside County Department of Animal Services impounded 38 dogs from the residence of a woman suspected of…
Thankfully, RCAS had managed to rehome 30 of the 37 adult dogs as of May 7, per their Facebook page, and Noni Boen Schirm continues to take care of the rest of the dumped puppies, who have survived and thrived.
For animal advocates in the case, the most important part of the story is that dogs are not just lifeless property that can be neglected and abused. As advocate Katie Phillips told the Desert Sun, “They’re living creatures and they’re on this earth for us to protect. And they’re innocent victims.”
While puppies might not be people, they deserve justice!
We transported 36 of the 37 confiscated dogs from our Coachella Valley Animal Campus to the Western Riverside…