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Mystery man hailed a hero after being seen on surveillance video making troubling find in dumpster

By Monica Bielanko, AccuWeather senior producer
April 23, 2019, 1:25:13 PM EDT

(ABC7)

Mystery man discovers plastic bag of newborn puppies.

(Riverside County Animal Services)

Woman seen on store surveillance dropping plastic bag of puppies in dumpster.

(Riverside County Animal Services)

Woman seen on store surveillance dropping plastic bag of puppies in dumpster.

(Riverside County Animal Services)

Newborn litter of puppies saved from dumpster.

(Riverside County Animal Services)

Newborn puppy saved from dumpster.

(Riverside County Animal Services)

Newborn puppy saved from dumpster.

(Riverside County Animal Services)

Deborah Sue Culwell, 54, of Coachella was arrested at her Coachella home.

(Riverside County Animal Services)

Puppies snuggle after rescue.


A man digging through a dumpster behind a NAPA Auto Parts store in Coachella on April 18 came up with more than he expected when he discovered a plastic bag full of newborn puppies stashed amid the trash. According to The Los Angeles Times, the man, known only as 'John' and believed to be a transient, heard the tiny cries and discovered the knotted, clear plastic bag bag filled with newborn puppies.

Surveillance footage shows the man walking the bag to the front of the auto parts store and placing it near a door. A few minutes later a person headed into the store spotted the bag and took it to store employees who called Riverside County Animal Control.

"I noticed the bag on the floor," the customer told ABC 7. "They were tied up in the bag, so I immediately opened the bag up a little further and I proceeded to call animal services to see what I could do with them because I just couldn't leave them there."

Officer Jose Cisneros, from the Riverside County Sheriff's office, arrived and asked employees at the NAPA store if he could watch video from the store's surveillance footage. Right away he spotted a woman in a white Jeep Wrangler dumping the puppies. The video shows her pull up, walk toward the dumpster filled with trash, ditch the bag full of puppies and drive away.

The clear plastic bag contained seven terrier mix puppies, believed to be about three days old. “They would have been on their way to the dump,” John Welsh, a spokesman for Animal Services, told the L.A. Times, adding that the puppies probably would have quickly suffocated if the man hadn’t found them. “It’s a shock that these pups survived.” Afternoon temperatures in Coachella that day were in the mid-90s. The puppies would not have lasted long in the sweltering dumpster had they been left there.

Animal Services’ veterinary team members cared for the puppies and lined up rescue group partner, MeoowzResQ, to help with bottle feeding. Incredibly, all seven pups are alive and doing well, as a video posted to YouTube shows.

Working in conjunction with the Riverside County Sheriff's office, Commander Chris Mayer from Riverside County Animal Services released surveillance video of the woman dumping the puppies. Four days later, Mayer arrested Deborah Culwell, 54, at her Coachella home. Mayer is working with Riverside County Sheriff's office and the district attorney to build a strong cruelty case against Culwell who faces seven counts of felony animal cruelty. Culwell is being held on $10,000 bail, according to KTLA.

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The mystery man who made the troubling discovery, however, is being lauded for removing the bag from the dumpster.

“The Good Samaritan played a major role in saving these puppies’ lives,” Mayer said in a statement. “His actions were humane and heroic. There is no excuse for dumping puppies. 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.”

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