‘Puppies aren’t people’: Attorney’s comment draws outcry in court

COACHELLA, Calif. – Onlookers in court gasped audibly when the attorney for a woman accused of dumping a bag full of puppies told the court “puppies aren’t people.”

Deborah Sue Culwell, 54, faces seven counts of felony animal cruelty and seven counts of misdemeanor animal abandonment. In April, she was caught on camera dumping the puppies in a dumpster behind an auto parts store, reported KESQ.

One of the seven puppies ended up dying.

Culwell was arrested a week later. After the arrest, 38 dogs were found living in squalor at her home. She later surrendered ownership rights to the animals.

In court this week, her bail was raised from $10,000 to $50,000. She has entered a not guilty plea.

But onlookers said they couldn’t believe her attorney, Joe Cavanaugh, told the court “puppies aren’t people.”

Cavanaugh said the comment was being taken the wrong way.

“I understand, I mean, the statement was taken out of context,” Cavanaugh told KESQ. “On the surface, yes, it’s a callous statement and it’s not to say I don’t care for animals. I’m actually a dog lover myself. The issue was just trying to make the distinction between how the law looks at an animal versus the law looking at a person.”

Animal advocates who attended who attended the hearing, including one who is caring for two of the puppies who survived, were stunned.

“I couldn’t believe that,” said Katie Phillips, the VP of SOAR, ananimal rescue group. “Puppies are not people. They are living beings. I loved when the entire audience gasped. The gall to say that about these precious creatures of the earth.”

CNN contributed to this report

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