Deborah Sue Culwell, the Southern California woman who was recorded tossing seven 3-day-old puppies into a recycling bin behind an auto parts business in April, pleaded guilty in court Wednesday afternoon to all counts related to the case.
She was sentenced Wednesday to 365 days in county jail — reduced to 174 days with credit for time served.
The 59-year-old admitted to animal cruelty and animal abandonment charges after previously pleading not guilty.
Prosecutors say she dumped a plastic bag with seven palm-sized puppies into a store dumpster. They were left in sweltering heat before a man heard their cries and rescued them.
The pups believed to be terrier mixes were treated for dehydration. One died.
Her case sparked outrage across the region and drew a national audience to the plight of her animals, which were later featured on a national television show with the goal of getting them adopted.
Earlier Wednesday, Judge Harold Hopp called the circumstances surrounding the case “pretty severe.”
Culwell was arrested April 22 after she was identified as the woman recorded on store surveillance video as the woman who drove a Jeep next to a recycling bin outside the NAPA Auto Parts store at 49-251 Grapefruit Boulevard, Coachella, on April 18 and disposed of a bag there.
The video shows a woman with a ponytail in a short skirt exiting her Jeep with the plastic bag just after 1 p.m. and depositing the sealed bag in the bin, county Department of Animal Services spokesman John Welsh has said.
A passerby who looked through the bin within minutes found the bag, which held the seven squealing puppies, believed to be terrier mixes. The man, identified only as “John,” took the puppies into the air-conditioned auto parts store. They were turned over to authorities.
Welsh said that with the temperature well into the 90s, he doubted the puppies would have survived very long in the bin.
The puppies were treated at a foster rescue home, but one — believed to be the runt of the litter — died a week after being discovered.
“I think we were a little sad that she didn’t get more than a year of jail time,” said Janeen Bahr, president of the nonprofit Society’s OutKasts Animal Rescue, where five of Culwell’s dogs were placed. “But on the other hand, when you look at what’s going on in the world today and the penal system, we’re probably lucky we got any jail time at all.”
Another 38 dogs were rescued from Culwell’s home in Coachella, east of Los Angeles.